Module 6: Constructivism in Classroom

Constructivism in Classroom

Constructivist teachers pose questions and problems, then guide students to help them find their own answers. They use many techniques in the teaching process like prompt students to formulate their own questions, allow multiple interpretations and expressions of learning and encourage group work and the use of peers as resources.

it’s important to realize that the constructivist approach borrows from many other practices in the pursuit of its primary goal: helping students learn HOW TO LEARN. In a constructivist classroom, learning is . . .

Constructed: Students are not blank slates upon which knowledge is etched. They come to learning situations with already formulated knowledge, ideas, and understandings. This previous knowledge is the raw material for the new knowledge they will create.

Active: Student is the person who creates new understanding for him/herself. The teacher coaches, moderates, suggest, but allow the students room to experiment, ask questions, try things that don’t work. Learning activities require the students’ full participation (like hands-on experiments). An important part of the learning process is that students reflect on, and talk about, their activities. Students also help set their own goals and means of assessment.

Reflective:  Students control their own learning process, and they lead the way by reflecting on their experiences. This process makes them experts of their own learning. The teacher helps create situations where the students feel safe questioning and reflecting on their own processes, either privately or in group discussions. The teacher should also create activities that lead the student to reflect on his or her prior knowledge and experiences. Talking about what was learned and how it was learned is really important.

Collaborative: The constructivist classroom relies heavily on collaboration among students. There are many reasons why collaboration contributes to learning. The main reason it is used so much in constructivism is that students learn about learning not only from themselves, but also from their peers. When students review and reflect on their learning processes together, they can pick up strategies and methods from one another.

Inquiry-based:  The main activity in a constructivist classroom is solving problems. Students use inquiry methods to ask questions, investigate a topic, and use a variety of resources to find solutions and answers. As students explore the topic, they draw conclusions, and, as exploration continues, they revisit those conclusions. Exploration of questions leads to more questions.

Evolving: Students have ideas that they may later see were invalid, incorrect, or insufficient to explain new experiences. These ideas are temporary steps in the integration of knowledge. For instance, a child may believe that all trees lose their leaves in the fall, until she visits an evergreen forest. Constructivist teaching takes into account students’ current conceptions and builds from there.

The benefits of constructivism are: Students learn more, and enjoy learning more when they are actively involved, rather than passive listeners, education works best when it concentrates on thinking and understanding, rather than on rote memorization. Constructivism concentrates on learning how to think and understand. Constructivist learning is transferable. In constructivist classrooms, students create organizing principles that they can take with them to other learning settings. Constructivism gives students ownership of what they learn, since learning is based on students’ questions and explorations, and often the students have a hand in designing the assessments as well. Constructivist assessment engages the students’ initiatives and personal investments in their journals, research reports, physical models, and artistic representations. Engaging the creative instincts develops students’ abilities to express knowledge through a variety of ways. The students are also more likely to retain and transfer the new knowledge to real life. By grounding learning activities in an authentic, real-world context, constructivism stimulates and engages students. Students in constructivist classrooms learn to question things and to apply their natural curiosity. Constructivism promotes social and communication skills by creating a classroom environment that emphasizes collaboration and exchange of ideas. Students must learn how to articulate their ideas clearly as well as to collaborate on tasks effectively by sharing in group projects. Students must therefore exchange ideas and so must learn to “negotiate” with others and to evaluate their contributions in a socially acceptable manner. This is essential to success in the real world, since they will always be exposed to a variety of experiences in which they will have to cooperate and navigate among the ideas of others.

What happens when a student gets a new piece of information? The constructivist model says that the student compares the information to the knowledge and understanding he/she already has, and one of three things can occur:

  • The new information matches up with his previous knowledge pretty well (it’s consonant with the previous knowledge), so the student adds it to his understanding. It may take some work, but it’s just a matter of finding the right fit, as with a puzzle piece.
  • The information doesn’t match previous knowledge (it’s dissonant). The student has to change her previous understanding to find a fit for the information. This can be harder work.
  • The information doesn’t match previous knowledge, and it is ignored. Rejected bits of information may just not be absorbed by the student. Or they may float around, waiting for the day when the student’s understanding has developed and permits a fit.




Education Theory

What classroom activities reflect constructivism

Constructivism in Education