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  1. 1. Student-Centered & Constructivist Approaches to Learning Dr. Jennifer IrwinEDU 620: Module 7 Chapter 8
  2. 2. The Constructive Nature ofHuman Perception Take a look at the pictures on the next slides.
  3. 3. What do you see?Do you see an old woman or a youngwoman?
  4. 4. How about now?Do you see a woman or a man playingthe saxophone?
  5. 5. How did you do that?Regardless of which picture you saw, you were (hopefully) able to see one of them.We are able to do this because we observe bits and pieces of images and construct meaningful wholes from what we see.
  6. 6. What is Constructivism?Without looking at the text, see if you can fill in the missing terms in this definition of constructivism:A theory that learners must individually discover information, check it against old information (______ _________), and revise and transform rules and knowledge as needed (_____________).
  7. 7. What is Constructivism?Did you think of:A theory that learners must individually discover information, check it against old information (prior knowledge), and revise and transform rules and knowledge as needed (adaptation).
  8. 8. Other names for Student-CenteredLearning• Progressivism• Active Learning• Constructivism• Experiential Education• Problem-Solving Approach• Project-Based Learning• Inquiry-Based Projects• Discovery Learning• Cooperative Learning
  9. 9. Basic Principles ofConstructivism Again, fill in the blanks withyour own prior knowledge• Teachers seek and value their students’ ______ of view.• Classroom __________ challenge students’ suppositions.• Teachers pose problems of emerging ________.• Teachers build lessons around primary concepts and “______” ideas.• Teachers assess student learning in the ______ of daily teaching.
  10. 10. Basic Principles ofConstructivism• Teachers seek and value their students’ points of view.• Classroom activities challenge students’ suppositions.• Teachers pose problems of emerging relevance.• Teachers build lessons around primary concepts and “big” ideas.• Teachers assess student learning in the context of daily teaching.
  11. 11. Historical Roots ofConstructivism• John Dewey (father of progressive education) – Education depends on experience• Jean Piaget – We learn best when we experience disequilibrium• Lev Vygotsky – Learning is a social process, learning from others is advantageous
  12. 12. Just for fun …
  13. 13. Constructivist Teaching• Planning for Instruction – Prior knowledge & experience – Students’ motivations, interests, needs, & learning styles• The student “constructs” his/her own meaning through experience• Research-supported ideas: student-centered learning  higher achievement & motivation
  14. 14. Constructivist Teaching (cont.)• Learning is meaningful, relevant, and it builds on prior knowledge• Critical/Divergent thinking is valued (not necessarily based on “correct” answers) “Process” … is valued over… “Product”
  15. 15. Other Aspects of Constructivism• Breadth v. Depth• Importance of Prior Knowledge• Schema Theory• Top-Down v. Bottom-Up Processing
  16. 16. Breadth v. DepthSept. June Sept. June – “Coverage is the enemy of understanding” • Howard Gardner – Constructivist classrooms teach fewer topics but teach them in great detail – Waldorf & Montessori schools are like this
  17. 17. The Importance of PriorKnowledge• Connection of old knowledge to new knowledge New learning Hooks/ Old learning
  18. 18. Schema Theory• Schemata are mental networks of related concepts that influence new learning You can think of them as a web of ideas or as a filing cabinet full of folders for each concept you know.
  19. 19. Top-Down v. Bottom-Up Processing Big concept Specific details How do many teachers teach? Top-down or bottom-up?
  20. 20. Top-Down v. Bottom-Up Processing• Yes, many lessons are Bottom-Up oriented (starting with a detailed skill or fact and then building up to the big picture, application, or relevance)• Constructivist classrooms are Top-Down. A teacher might present a challenge or problem first, have students think of solutions, then lastly give the answer or details.
  21. 21. What does Constructivismlook like in the classroom?This is a great book to get you thinking about it. The chartthat follows is from Brooks and Brooks. The Case for Constructivist Classrooms Brooks and Brooks 1999, ASCD
  22. 22. Traditional v. Constructivist Classrooms Traditional Classrooms Constructivist Classrooms1. Curriculum is presented part to 1. Curriculum is presented whole to partwhole, with emphasis on basic skills. with emphasis on big concepts.2. Strict adherence to fixed curriculum 2. Pursuit of student questions is highlyis highly valued. valued.3. Curricular activities rely heavily on 3. Materials include primary sources andtextbooks and workbooks. manipulatives.4. Students are viewed as "blank 4. Students are viewed as thinkers withslates" onto which information is emerging theories about the world.etched by the teacher.5. Teachers generally behave in a 5. Teachers generally behave in andidactic manner, disseminating interactive manner, mediating theinformation to students. environment for students.6. Teachers seek the correct answer 6. Teachers seek the students points ofto validate student learning. view in order to understand students present conceptions for use in subsequent lessons.7. Assessment of student learning is 7. Assessment of student learning isviewed as separate from teaching and interwoven with teaching and occursoccurs almost entirely through testing. through teacher observations of students at work and through students exhibitions and portfolios.8. Students primarily work alone. 8. Students primarily work in groups.
  23. 23. Can we be “constructivist” all the time?• Linda Darling-Hammond advocates using “both-and” teaching instead of “either-or”• A “balanced” approach – Ex: Knowing when to use “direct instruction” and when to use “discovery methods”• Critics of constructivist methods (yes, there are some) claim that – Subject matter is sacrificed – Students have free reign
  24. 24. More thoughts from Linda Darling-Hammond’s“Experience and Education: Implications for Teaching andSchooling Today”• The constructivist classroom is highly structured, but improvisational• The constructivist teacher has to attend to: – Demands of subject matter – Needs of students• Difficult to implement constructivist teaching when under constraints of curriculum, school system, & federal legislation Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to be more student-centered!
  25. 25. This is a student:This is a student in a constructivist classroom:Any questions?