Constructivist Principles: Just How Important Are They?

3 Nov

Of all the theories discussed in our learning theories class, I admit that I liked constructivism best. It is parallel to most of my ideas of what the teaching-learning process should be. Its main goal is to shape independent learners, it emphasizes that students are active agents in the learning process, and it favors the idea of building a democratic classroom environment.

However, most schools in the Philippines still abide by traditional classroom principles wherein teachers are expected to communicate new knowledge with students who are filled up like empty vessels during the learning process. I myself wasn’t able to experience being in a student-centered classroom until I entered college and became a student in the University of the Philippines.

So how did the absence of constructivist principles affect my early years of schooling? I am going to discuss this further in this post.

Direct Transmission in Elementary and High School

 

 

When I was still in basic and secondary education, I remembered being asked to memorize a lot of things. We had to memorize the capitals of the different provinces in the Philippines, the preamble of the Philippine Constitution, the scientific names of various plants and animals, and even some passages in the Bible. I memorized all of those because I wanted to get a high score in exams so I also memorized most definitions word for word. We were rarely asked to provide explanations to most of the theories and concepts introduced in the classroom.

Our teachers acted more like authority figures than facilitators or guides. We depended on them for the correct answers and we rarely explored alternative interpretations to various texts and theories. We were expected to give answers by the book, so we rarely had opportunities to express our opinions and thoughts as well.

Though we were also asked to perform short skits, engage in classroom debates, and create projects to apply the things we learned in class, most of the time was devoted to class discussions. In a constructivist point of view, this might have been a good thing if we were encouraged to participate more and ask more questions. In our class, we were merely asked to recite some passages in our books while our teacher does all the work in explaining what we have read.

Constructivism and Critical Thinking in College

 

 

All of this changed when I entered college. Since one of UP’s main goals is to shape critical thinkers, most of my professors adopted a constructivist approach in teaching. Though they also placed emphasis on memorizing important facts, they were more concerned about making sure that we can adequately explain the concepts we’ve learned in our own words. They also assigned us several activities that hone critical thinking, such as research papers and critiques on sociological, anthropological and psychological theories.

Most of our professors also made sure that we were comfortable enough to express whatever is on our minds. We praised whenever we came up with intriguing questions, and they guided us toward finding the answers to our own questions. But I also had some professors who adopted traditional teaching strategies. I noticed that I performed better in courses where we were allowed to speak our minds and required to accomplish activities that I find interesting and relevant.

Becoming a Constructivist Teacher

 

 

Although there were some criticisms about constructivism, I still appreciate one of its biggest contributions to teaching – to shift the focus of learning from teachers to students. I believe that students learn best in a student-centered classroom because it gives them the freedom to take part in the construction of knowledge. It allows them to take ownership of their ideas and shapes them into independent learners who have learned how to learn and have developed the motivation to learn for the sake of learning.

This is exactly the kind of teacher I want to be.

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One Response to “Constructivist Principles: Just How Important Are They?”

  1. monetteabalos November 3, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

    I agree! Giving students their autonomy and responsibility for their own learning should be foster in teaching-learning process. As learners experience freedom on what and how to learn they tend to learn more and learn more effectively. The teachers’ role should be concentrated on guiding and facilitating the students guided and collaborative learning experiences. Hope I can do this someday.

    Monette:)

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