Top Ten List in Constructivism
I gave a tour on Thursday of our program, highlighting our extraordinary features on an ordinary day. At the end, one visitor commented that he had studied educational reform at a Master’s level. He had researched and studied all the ways constructivism can be implemented. Until now, he hadn’t seen actually seen in practice. Amazing.
Here may be the top ten questions that constructivist/educational reformers ask:
1) Relevance – does it relate to the child?
2) Morality – does it create a sense of right and wrong?
3) Inspiration – does it excite the child?
4) Incrementalism – does it increase in both difficulty and scaffolding for the child?
5) Mastery – does it demonstrate a child’s thorough understanding of the materials?
6) Meaning – does it show connectedness and relationship to life?
7) Critical Thinking – does it build a child’s capacity for higher levels of thought?
8) Broad Range – does it include all areas of multiple intelligences?
9) Kinesthetic Response – does the curriculum allow for hands on approach?
10) Standards – does the curriculum meet local, national and international standards for learning objectives?
There is a resounding YES to all these questions when one considers a constructivist approach. These answers are evident when one walks through the learning environments at Hand In Hand.
As Montessorians, we embrace a constructivist model of education and believe that a child needs to be an active, not passive, participant in learning. This, in essence, is the definition of constructivism. “Constructivist teaching is based on the belief that learning occurs as learners are actively involved in a process of meaning and knowledge construction as opposed to passively receiving information. Learners are the makers of meaning and knowledge.”
Constructivism is a roadmap. It guides the ideas of what is best to inspire the learner. However, the constructivist model relies on individual capacity and feedback to determine the outlook of the journey and the pace, which the child travels, and not just the curriculum itself. It employs the use of Bloom’s taxonomy of higher levels of thinking as it encourages the child to move up the theoretical triangle from knowledge into creativity.
Curriculum is important but it comes in second to the child. As Elizabeth Hainstock wrote in her book Essential Montessori, “The good Montessori teacher is less concerned with academic achievement than with those preliminary steps that lay the foundation for it. Although early reading and writing and other sophisticated academic skills appeal to many parents, these are actually bi-products of the other preliminary activities” (41).
These “other preliminary activities” mentioned by Hainstock were seen on the tour. Kindergarteners were sewing. One was weaving a “small bookmark.” One was using a needle and thread to sew a “button on a tiny pillow.” All were headed towards the mastery goal of the “puppet” and then on to the “sewing machine” work! Their six year old friends were studying geometric solids. Sixth graders grinded coffee by hand, brewed coffee, and served it to the visitors. These same sixth graders went on to enthusiastically describe their academic work of the day: writing a five-paragraph essay for language and working on algebraic equations in math. Junior Highers were working in the nursery with the babies, while others were attending a geography presentation while petting a poodle. Again, amazing. Evidences of learners constructing their own education.
I have learned that our HIH programming, and essentially what that visitor observed on a tour, comes out of constructivist philosophy that must be continually revised and critiqued. We teach children first and content second and choices in constructivism curriculum help us as educators achieve our goals. The results will be amazing.
For more information and inspiration on the subject of constructivism, visit this link: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/nov99/vol5