Tag Archives: constructivism

A Constructivist Approach Requires Being Courageous

When we hear the term “courage” we often think of someone dashing into a burning building to save a child or an unarmed individual wrestling to the ground someone with a gun. Yes these are courageous acts but I (Clare) want to talk about an unsung group who I feel have the fortitude and tenacity to be courageous.

In our study of literacy teacher educators which we have written about on this blog we Image Courageous LTEshared some of our findings showing many examples of truly exemplary teaching. We are currently working on a paper about 6 literacy teacher educators who use a constructivist approach to their literacy courses. In this era where education is highly politicized with mandated national curriculum and oversight by external bodies it takes “guts” to adopt an approach that includes: knowledge is constructed by learners; knowledge is experience based; learning is social; all aspects of a person are connected; and learning communities should be inclusive and equitable.

Ahsan and Smith (2016) who advocate a social constructivist approach have identified practices that support learning based on the social constructivist theory

  • Social interaction and dialogue
  • Environment deeply rooted in culture
  • More Knowledgeable Others (MKOs) helping students
  • Scaffolding
  • Progressing through the zone of proximal development (ZPD)
  • Constructive and timely feedback
  • Collaboration among students (p. 134)

Constructivism does not mean that you discard traditional forms of teaching (lectures, assignments, and readings) but it requires the teacher educator to have an inquiry-orientation; not just model good teaching but unpack it with their student teachers often revealing their own vulnerabilities; willingly to admit that they learn from their student teachers; have courses that are organic because they respond to student teachers’ needs; and build a social and intellectual community — often blurring the traditional lines between professor and student teacher. Yes their courses can be somewhat messy because they create space for discussion which often veers off from the plan but they are addressing student teachers’ needs.

To teach in this way takes courage because they are teaching in a way that they most likely did not experience as a student. A constructivist framework which is both a philosophy and a pedagogy may be a more useful approach to reform than the endless lists of expectations. These literacy teacher educators trusted themselves and their student teachers. The next step is for governments to trust teacher educators. And we need to applaud their courage to think outside the box and truly focus on their student teachers.

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Keeping up with Technology in Education

I (Cathy) am not sure that keeping up with technology in education is possible.  This is where collaboration in the classroom becomes a necessity. The ‘technology-gifted’ students become our greatest resource, in effect- the teachers.   Unlike the cartoon below, I’m not referring to the  students who can afford the latest gadgets, I’m referring to the students who are ‘technologically intelligent’.  Several years ago, Howard Gardner suggested this was possibly  a new intelligence to add to his list, but unfortunately never followed up.  Personally, I have relied on such students in the past.  They are our mentors. They ‘see’ the digital world and the possibilities. It’s a gift.  Look for these students in your class.  They may be a fantastic untapped resource.

 

'Our school computers are one year old. How can we be competitive in the job market if we're being trained on obselete equipment?'
‘Our school computers are one year old. How can we be competitive in the job market if we’re being trained on obselete equipment?’

Truly Engaging Students and Meeting Their Needs: Reconciling Our Ideals with Their Realities

 

John LoughranAs our team continues its research and writing on teaching, I (Clive) have been re-reading John Loughran’s wonderful book What Expert Teachers Do (Routledge, 2010). http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415579674/
This week I came across a section that reports a common gap between teacher and student views of good teaching (pp. 210-11). For example:
Teacher view:
Students should have opportunities to be active and think about their learning experiences
Student view:
Learning is associated with gaining right answers, and thinking and personal understanding are just different and often frustrating ways of achieving required outcomes
Teacher view:
Linking experiences from both within and outside school greatly assists learning
Student view:
The final grade is the critical outcome and the basis by which progress is judged

Loughran’s colleague Jeff Northfield, on whose teaching experiences these findings were based, was able to bridge the gap to a degree, but only by “listening carefully to his students [and] capitalising on opportunities as they arose.”Cover of What Expert Teachers Do
This helped me see that in developing ideas about good teaching (and good teacher education) we must work closely with our students, listening to them as they describe the realities of their world. Together we must come up with a pedagogy they understand and accept, one that both meets their immediate needs and ensures deeper gains for the long-term. We need to reconcile broader ideals with hard realities.
I think this can be done; but we must actually do it. Part of what is involved is practicing with our students the constructivism and dialogical teaching we believe in, and that really does work.  Clive