The Theory of Constructivism

This semester in READ 6308, students explored various theories about learning and learning to read. As part of this assignment, they wrote a post for our blog.

By Crystal Ramos

In Constructivism, students are actively constructing their knowledge.  Constructivists believe that a student’s prior knowledge and experience affect the way they learn.  They believe that learners need to make connections with what they are being taught in order to construct a better understanding.  How can we, as teachers, do this?  One of the most important ways for an educator to help a student is by activating and building on their background knowledge.  Unfortunately, many students do not have the experiences and knowledge that we would expect them to.  We need to make it a point to find out the extent of our students’ experiences and knowledge.  Once we do, we can activate and build on it, especially if we want them to make better sense of what we teach them in the classroom.

Another major belief in the theory of Constructivism is students asking questions and solving problems.  Most of the time when a student asks a question the teacher tends to give the answer right away. Or when teachers pose a question, if students do not know the answer, they wait for the teacher to provide the “right” answer.  Opposite is true in a Constructivist classroom.  Teachers want to develop the student’s thinking, so they bring forth open-ended questions, and it is the student who finds the answers.  They take responsibility for their own learning.  The teacher guides the students in their learning, provides the time and materials to support the students as they attempt to discover the answers.  

How would this look in a classroom?

In a Constructivist classroom, don’t expect to see row seating or the teacher in the front of the classroom lecturing, while students are at their desks with a textbook open in front of them, disengaged. 

What you will see are students working cooperatively together, alongside with the teacher, asking questions, seeking answers, and reflecting on what they are learning. There will be an array of discussions amongst the students and with the teacher.  There is a minimal, if any, use of textbooks and basal readers.  Authentic literature is essential and key to encourage students’ interest and participation. 

In Constructivism, students create knowledge by using their past experiences and newly acquired knowledge.  Students actively participate in their own understanding of the world around them.  Teachers provide students with authentic and meaningful activities that they can connect to personally and are able to apply it to the real-world.  Students are actively engaged!

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