Constructivist approach is becoming more popular in describing both the process of learning and teaching, it influences new trends in the design and delivery of many areas of the curriculum. The approach suggests students to develop their own ideas not reproduce others’ ideas. Teacher provides scaffold to help students construct their own understanding within the zone of proximal development.
This paper consist of ? parts, which includes definition of concepts, relationships among concepts, importance of concepts, importance of quality of learning, strategies for teaching, limitations and conclusion.
Definitions of Concepts
Constructivism is a theory of learning suggesting that learners create their own knowledge of the topics they study rather than receiving that knowledge as transmitted to them by some other source (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000). According to constructivist learning theory, the four aspects of constructivist lessons include: learners construct their own meaning, new learning builds on prior knowledge, learning is enhanced by social interaction and meaningful learning develops through “authentic” tasks (Good & Brophy, 2003).
Zone of proximal development (ZPD) is the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers (Vgotsky, 1978).
Scaffolding is assistance that helps children complete tasks they cannot complete independently (Puntambekar & Hübscher, 2005; D. Wood, Bruner, & Rossm 1976). Some types of instructional scaffolding include modeling, questions, prompts and cues.
Relationships among constructivist approach to learning, scaffolding and zone of proximal development
There are two basic versions of constructivist approach: cognitive and social constructivism, which were respectively developed by Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky. Cognitive constructivism focuses on individual, internal construction of knowledge (Greeno, Collins, & Resnick, 1996; Meter & Stevens, 2000; Nuthall, 1999a), while social constructivism suggests that learners first construct knowledge in a social context and then individually internalize it (Vygotsky, 1978).
The concept of scaffolding is closely related to the ZPD, according to Vygotsky (1978), students’ problem solving skills of tasks are in three categories: (a) can perform independently (b) cannot perform even with help (c) can perform with help.
The task that students “can perform with help” lies in the most productive zone for learning, this zone is called zone of proximal development (ZPD). The ZPD can be thought of as a “construction zone” where just the right amount of assistance given by adults or more competent peers helps students to complete the task successfully, this kind of adult assistance is called scaffolding. In order to implement assisted learning within the ZPD, teachers have to offer just the right amount of help as students try to bridge the gap between what they already know (or can do) to the intended earning outcome.
Scaffolding and ZPD are important concepts for social constructivism. In classroom practice, constructivist learning involves interactions between teacher and students or among the students themselves, when students work on a task, teacher provide scaffold by guiding students in the appropriate direction within their ZPD.
The importance of qualify of learning and scaffolding to you, teacher students and education
Learning is not just about how much is learned (memorize), but the quality of what is learned (understood), which means the purpose of learning is for an individual to construct his or her own meaning, not just memorize the “right” answers and regurgitate someone else’s meaning.
Constructivist theory can be incorporated into the curriculum, and advocate that teachers create environments in which children can construct their own understandings (Zemelman, Daniels, and Hyde, 1993).
Teacher facilitates students’ construction of understanding by providing educational scaffold, so that students can change, enrich and link previous and current knowledge. An educational scaffold such as cues, questions, coach provides temporary support as students work to bridge the gap between what they already know or can do and the intended instructional outcome. As children demonstrate increasing awareness of a problem situation, the adult gradually relinquishes the supportive role and eventually turns over full responsibility of the learning experience to the child.
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The importance of the relationships of concepts in connection to student teaching and learning
Constructivist approach to learning promotes critical thinking and creates motivated and independent learners. It is based on the belief that learning occurs as students are actively involved in the process of knowledge construction and meaning, instead of passively receiving information. Constructivist classrooms allow for a democratic environment, interactive/student-centered activities, and actively involved learners who are responsible and autonomous.
The importance of the relationships of concepts in connection to student teaching and learning can be illustrate by considering the four aspects of constructivist lessons:
Learners construct their own meaning
Students do not passively receive knowledge but actively construct their own knowledge, teachers have to facilitate students’ constructions of knowledge using social interactions by providing scaffolds.
New learning builds on prior knowledge
Students develop new knowledge based on their experience of the world, in making an effort to make sense of information, students must make connections between old knowledge and new information. Teachers have to adjust the instructional scaffold depending on students’ prior knowledge and current interest.
Learning is enhanced by social interaction
The constructivist process works best in social settings as students have the opportunity to compare and share their ideas with others, as well as to learn from others. Teachers have to organize small group activities, discussions within the entire class.
Meaningful learning develops through “authentic” tasks
Activities are chosen to simulate those that will be encountered in real life or in an assignment.
Some effective strategies for teaching in relations with concepts
Constructivist learning is based on the principle of students’ discovery.
The role of teacher is not to “tell” the concept but to facilitate that discovery.
to design an activity that will allow students to discover for themselves that the Internet will not always provide the best answer to all questions or that there may be better sources of information?
To lead students to this latter discovery, in our lessons, we pose a problem at the beginning of the session and allow students to go wherever they
want for information – but, of course, we carefully select a problem that cannot be answered successfully on the net. (Including the “authentic” requirement that the information must come from a scholarly journal will usually eliminate most sites
and provide an opportunity to elicit a questions about scholarly journals.)
We can all guess that freshmen, and unfortunately many upper classmen, will
automatically “Google” the search – except for a few who might suspect that there is a reason that they are in the library. When students begin to realize that the Internet will not solve the problem, we direct them to an appropriate database. Students are usually amazed at how much more quickly and easily they are able to complete the task – they discover that maybe the Internet is not always the “best place to go” for certain information. And we have led students from where they are to where we want them to be.
to stimulate higher-order thinking.
Each group member then reviews the project and provides feedback. Seeing how another student approaches the assignment presents a different perspective. Students get more out of the activity and different perspectives engage students in critical thinking. In the development of a web curriculum, groups should be formed where students exchange and critique their final or culminating projects (Cunningham & Billingsley, 2003). This will enable students to see what their peers have created and will add to the learning community.
A useful form of scaffolding is to model the practices we want our students to adopt.
In mathematics lesson, teacher would explain and model the mathematical reasoning, then stimulate students to engage themselves, for example the teacher demonstrate and verbalize solving equations of 4x + 2 = 10 on the blackboard with detailed steps and explanation, then ask student to solve another similar equation.
Eng – passive voice
By asking questions, teacher can check students’ level of prior knowledge and understanding, and also assists students to construct their own meaning. In social studies lesson, teacher would often ask questions that focus on awareness rather than content to make students engage more interactively and gain insight, for example the teacher would ask “What is your favourite Chinese customs? Why?” and “What is your perception on traditional Chinese customs?”.
Using group activity –
Discussions between instructor and students, also between students themselves
Although teacher support is essential in scaffolding, it is essential also to unleash students from the teacher-fronted classroom setting. In liberal studies lesson, the teacher would organize group work exercises to encourage peer learning, for example, the teacher let students role-play on the issue of minimum wage, assign each group a specific role (e.g. Labour and Welfare Bureau officials , public) for discussion, then prepare group presentations on opinions and report in the class.
Macrotasks can provide an excellent framework to motivate students to work independently. Some possible macrotasks are:
â€¢ Produce a web-based magazine for the school
â€¢ Write a script for a play or movie and produce it for the School
â€¢ Prepare a mini-conference or trade fair (including poster presentations, individual and group presentations) and invite guests of honour
â€¢ Organize a whole school event (English day, drama performance)
Students can get much more out of macrotasks if they are supported by good scaffolding strategies.
At the beginning of each semester, I assign a 2000 word term paper on a topic of students’ choice. To mitigate the effects of resistance to writing and the inevitable sad consequence s of late papers, I gave the students four different assignment in one: choosing the topic, writing an outline of the paper, completing the first 1000 words, and the final draft. By having three assignment to turn in before the final draft is due, most students attend to the paper and complete their work on time. This assignment works to demonstrate the process of scaffolding and its benefit to both the student and the teacher.
Constructivist methods will include the use of visual aids, which consist of videos, pictures, and the Internet also CD’s limited direct instruction, hands on assignments, and collaborative group projects will be utilized as well.
PART III Conclusion
Difficulties and Limitations for concept
Using a constructivist approach, students are in the center of the learning process, teachers are challenged to provide teaching techniques that support students’ construction of their understanding. Teachers need to make the concepts and phenomena interesting and important to the students (Julyan & Duckworth, 1996; Schank, 1997). The teacher should offer a variety of methods for exploration and provide various approaches.
Second, many students are not used to managing their own learning, they rely on the teacher, teacher should make sure that just enough help and guidance is provided, but not too much. It would be difficult, however, for a teacher to support large groups of students.
Scaffolding – Adapting instructional materials e.g. a PE teacher lower the basket while teaching shooting techniques and then raises it as students become proficient
Focus on students learning than teachers teaching
Shifts emphasis from teaching to learning
Individualizes and contextualizes students’ learning experiences
Helps students develop processes, skills and attitudes
Considers students’ learning styles
Focuses on knowledge construction, not reproduction
Uses authentic tasks to engage learners
Provides for meaningful, problemâ€based thinking
Requires negotiation of meaning
Requires reflection of prior and new knowledge
Extends students beyond content presented to them
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