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How do I apply constructivism in my classroom?
What are some simple ways to get started?
What are some challenges I may face?
How do I assess student progress?
How does constructivism align with state and national standards?
How does technology complement constructivism?
How do I work with my school, the parents, and the community?

How do I assess student progress?

Following are some guides to how you can think about evaluating your students' learning.

1. Evaluate student progress by examining the thinking process of the student. This can be done in a number of ways. Try asking your students to develop a solution to a problem and then to defend their decisions.

For example, to follow up on science investigations involving the properties of substances, charge teams of students with identifying a "mystery substance" formulated by the teacher. Provide tools, apparatus, and techniques that they have reviewed or are ready to adopt. Each team reports their results to the class, with demonstrations of successful techniques and problems that occured.
Or, after a study of animals and their habits, you might present students with a problem that they know will culminate in an evaluation. You might present a new set of animals to the class. Then offer the following problem: Choose three animals from the set and construct a habitat that will support all of them.

Students and teacher might construct a rubric 1 to guide work. The rubric might have general categories in the form of a checklist: food, protection from elements, etc.


2. Have students document their learning through journal or diary-like activities and reflect on their learning.

For example, to document learning in language arts, you can assign "Readers' Response Journals," where students identify significant passages in their reading books. In this sort of journal, students typically record the passage in one column on a page, then write their personal observations next to it. Sometimes students use "stickies" to annotate and flag their readings.

A graphic organizer tool (either on a computer or written by hand) can be an effective way for students to map their learning. This is especially effective if practiced at significant stages of the unit. Then students will see how their understanding has progressed and how it connects to other topics and learning. One software program that you might consider using for this is called Inspiration.

Some teachers have found the use of e-mail, online discussion boards, and other BBS (bulletin board system) features to be effective in the assessment of learning. E-mail threads 2 built on class topics ranging from race relations to themes in Shakespeare provide a way not only for students to express their points of view, but also for teachers to form a picture of how individual students function within the class.


Many schools have access to the Internet, with electronic mail (e-mail) and Web services for the classroom. Some teachers have already augmented their curriculum work with content resources and projects drawn from the Web. Teachers can also provide online meeting and work places for students to collaborate with classmates and with students in classes elsewhere (sometimes far away). Such collaboration can be saved and examined as part of the assessment process. Also, when the classroom goes online, discussion can continue outside of classroom hours.

Teachers can use e-mail to deepen and pursue their understanding of how individual students, particularly those reticent to speak in class, learn. The information age has begun to give us effective means of capturing and preserving a learning dialogue.

3. Prompt students to create new problem-solving environments.

After students have searched the solar system for missing probes using the software package "The Great Solar System Rescue," 3 each student could join a team charged with creating a new problem for other students to solve. Their resources could include a multimedia database constructed by the teacher or by themselves. This database would contain not only visual and animated material about the solar system but also databases and spreadsheet-formatted data about objects in the solar system. The students would then write the problem using word-processing software. They could create an on-screen visual environment from found, scanned, or original illustrations. They could combine the elements using a multimedia presentation program such as HyperStudio 4.
Or, they could construct a Web site for other students from their own class or a class in another community to access. In this case, the addition of e-mail links would facilitate the students' becoming coaches of other students.
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Workshop: Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning
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