Welcome to Constructivism as a Paradigm for
Teaching and Learning. Start with the Explanation section
to gain a good understanding of the CONCEPT of constructivism.
Then go on to Demonstration, where we move from CONCEPT TO
does this theory differ from traditional ideas about teaching
does constructivism have to do with my classroom?
is the history of constructivism, and how has it changed over
are some critical perspectives?
are the benefits of constructivism?
Constructivism is basically a theory -- based on observation
and scientific study -- about how people learn. It says that
people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the
world, through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences.
When we encounter something new, we have to reconcile it with
our previous ideas and experience, maybe changing what we believe,
or maybe discarding the new information as irrelevant. In any
case, we are active creators of our own knowledge. To do this,
we must ask questions, explore, and assess what we know.
In the classroom, the constructivist view of learning can point
towards a number of different teaching practices. In the most
general sense, it usually means encouraging students to use
active techniques (experiments, real-world problem solving)
to create more knowledge and then to reflect on and talk about
what they are doing and how their understanding is changing.
The teacher makes sure she understands the students' preexisting
conceptions, and guides the activity to address them and then
build on them.
Constructivist teachers encourage students to constantly assess
how the activity is helping them gain understanding. By questioning
themselves and their strategies, students in the constructivist
classroom ideally become "expert learners." This gives them
ever-broadening tools to keep learning. With a well-planned
classroom environment, the students learn HOW TO LEARN.
You might look at it as a spiral. When they continuously reflect
on their experiences, students find their ideas gaining in complexity
and power, and they develop increasingly strong abilities to
integrate new information. One of the teacher's main roles becomes
to encourage this learning and reflection process.
For example: Groups of students in a science class are
discussing a problem in physics. Though the teacher knows the "answer" to the problem, she focuses
students restate their questions in useful ways. She prompts
each student to reflect on and examine his or her current
knowledge. When one of the students comes up with the
relevant concept, the teacher seizes upon it, and indicates
to the group that this might be a fruitful avenue for
them to explore. They design and perform relevant experiments.
Afterward, the students and teacher talk about what they
have learned, and how their observations and experiments
helped (or did not help) them to better understand the
Contrary to criticisms by some (conservative/traditional) educators,
constructivism does not dismiss the active role of the teacher
or the value of expert knowledge. Constructivism modifies that
role, so that teachers help students to construct knowledge rather
than to reproduce a series of facts. The constructivist teacher provides
tools such as problem-solving and inquiry-based learning activities
with which students formulate and test their ideas, draw conclusions
and inferences, and pool and convey their knowledge in a collaborative
learning environment. Constructivism transforms the student from
a passive recipient of information to an active participant in
the learning process. Always guided by the teacher, students construct
their knowledge actively rather than just mechanically ingesting
knowledge from the teacher or the textbook.
Constructivism is also often misconstrued as a learning theory
that compels students to "reinvent the wheel." In fact, constructivism
taps into and triggers the student's innate curiosity about the
world and how things work. Students do not reinvent the wheel
but, rather, attempt to understand how it turns, how it functions.
They become engaged by applying their existing knowledge and real-world
experience, learning to hypothesize, testing their theories, and
ultimately drawing conclusions from their findings.
The best way for you to really understand what constructivism
is and what it means in your classroom is by seeing examples of
it at work, speaking with others about it, and trying it yourself.
As you progress through each segment of this workshop, keep in mind questions or ideas to share with your colleagues.
Workshop: Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning
Explanation | Demonstration | Exploration | Implementation | Get Credit
Concept to Classroom | About the Series | Resources | Sitemap | Credits
Thirteen | Thirteen Ed Online | thirteencelebration.org
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