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Is Constructivism the Best Philosophy for Education?

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State the main pro ideas: Constructivism may be defined as a learning philosophy whereby the emphasis is placed on the learner or the student rather than the teacher or the instructor. Clinical development professor David Elkind contends that the philosophical positions found in constructivism, though difficult to apply, are necessary elements in a meaningful reform of educational practices. The author used various well known researchers to substantiate his view point. These researchers include Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky and Jerome Bruner. They have basically contented that constructivism is indeed the best approach for students. They have compared the constructivist theory with the traditional instructional models. The researchers pointed out that traditional models place emphasis on knowledge transmission without producing deeper levels of understanding and internalization. Basically, they believe that students should not be like sponges just soaking what the teacher has taught but they should take responsibility for their learning. Students should be able to invent their own solutions and try out ideas and hypotheses.

State the main con ideas:The author highlighted that there are three forms of readiness that must be in alignment if constructivism is to be successful and if these fail, then constructivism fails. In terms of teacher readiness, it has been argued that those teachers who try to implement the constructivist method in the classroom are blocked by unsupportive teachers. There also has to be thorough understanding of the curriculum. If teachers do not have a comprehensive knowledge of the curriculum they will not know the level which the curriculum is most suited for. Teachers should be able to match the child’s level of mental development to the subject matter. The society has to also be able to adapt to the change. For such a pedagogy to be implemented it would need the support of parents and other stakeholders.

State your opinion on the issue:The goal of instruction is not to ensure that students memorize specific facts, but rather that students elaborate on and interpret the information presented to them. The focus of constructivism is on creating cognitive tools which reflect the world in which they are used as well as the experiences of the students. Some of the specific strategies utilized by constructivism include situating tasks in real world contexts, use of cognitive apprenticeships (modeling and coaching a student toward expert performance), presentation of multiple perspectives (collaborate learning to develop and share viewpoints), social negotiations (debate, discussion, evidence gathering), use of reflective awareness and guidance on the use of constructive processes.

Curriculum should be structured for it to have power and make a difference in the lives of students and the society in which they live. Focusing on depth on a smaller number of skills and concepts will lead to greater understanding and retention and will also enhance problem solving and critical thinking skills. Research in cognitive psychology indicates that thinking skills or learning strategies are better learned by students when they are embedded in problem-solving units dealing with complex meaning problems, situated in context.

Curriculum should also provide for the individual differences of the student. First, the curriculum should use various modes of representation such as different ways to display or transfer knowledge. Next, the curriculum should allow teachers to provide high structure at the beginning of the year through cues, suggestions, and explanations and let the students solve problems on their own throughout the school year. This is referred to as “scaffolding.” Also the curriculum should address students’ multiple intelligences, rather than just focusing on the verbal and mathematical skills.

When I was a student in school, there was predominately one model of teaching, lecture recitation. Basically my teacher stood in front of the class, explained concepts and skills, assigned seat work, and then graded our seat work. The teachers asked some questions, but most of the time students were expected to be passive listeners or on task workers. Some of my teachers did a good job with this kind of instruction, and obviously some of us did learn from this method along the way. But day after day, 180 days a year, year after year, the lecture recitation method became boring. Many of the bright students became increasingly bored, and the less academically inclined students simply tuned out mentally and emotionally sometime before they physically dropped out of school.

However, the lecture recitation model is still being used in schools, but fortunately today you will find more variety in teaching methods than 20 years ago. If you walk through schools today you are likely to see teachers implementing cooperative learning, advance organizers or mnemonics, inquiry based or discovery learning. Even when teachers are using the lecture recitation method they are often incorporating strategies from other instructional models and learning theories.

I feel that constructivism does not do away with the active role of the classroom teacher or devalue the expertise of the teacher. I feel that constructivism modifies the role of the teacher, so that the teacher assists students in constructing knowledge rather than regurgitating a series of facts. The constructivist teacher provides students with tools such as problem-solving and inquiry-based learning activities where students then create and test their own ideas, draw their own conclusions and inferences, and then convey their knowledge in a collaborative setting. Constructivism in my opinion transforms the student from a passive learner to an active participant in the learning process. The learning process is simply guided by the teacher allowing students to construct their knowledge actively. I believe that the constructivist view assists students in becoming lifelong learners.


EDUCATIONAL ISSUES : Taking Sides–Clashing Views on Educational Issues , Fifteenth Edition

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