Imagine a set of lego blocks just like the ones below.
Now imagine two different scenarios in your classroom:
1) Students are given a worksheet or a book with how to construct “a useful everyday tool”.
2) Students are given just the bricks and they are allowed to make whatever they want as long as they have a practical use in their daily lives.
This is the difference between a constructivist approach to science education and a non-constructivist approach.
Daniel Gil-Pérez and I would argue that the second scenario is far better to be used in a science classroom.
Daniel Gil-Pérez investigated the idea of constructivism in his paper “Defending Constructivism in Science Education” and listed several supports for constructivism in science education.
- Active participation of students in the construction of knowledge
- A way for students to develop their conceptual understanding
- Builds on individuals background
- Rooted in inquiry
Constructivism is not…
- Production of knowledge
- Rooted in textbooks
- Passed down from teacher to student
- “Brain Dumping”
Building a Constructivist Classroom
The beauty of constructivism is that there is no set formula for how to do it. As long as students have the opportunity to actively engage with the material and inquire and are curious there are a multitude of positive effects on their education in a science classroom.
Effects of Constructivism
- Ability to use knowledge to problem solve
- Invention of concepts and ability to form hypotheses
- Ability to produce an experimental design to test their hypothesis
- Checking results within their scientific community
Combatting Criticism for Constructivism
I hope that you plan on at least entertaining the idea of implementing this classroom ideology into your own classroom. But…you may be asking, “What if my superior or peers do not believe in it?”
This is a completely normal response, especially if you have not been implementing it for the whole time you have been teaching. This is why I chose the article that I did.
Daniel Gil-Pérez is excellent at addressing criticism and counterarguments to this ideology. I implore you to read his arguments and counterarguments for constructivism. His background as a well-seasoned educator is easily apparent in his writing. I will supply a citation at the bottom of this post.
Back to the Legos
Constructivism is allowing students to apply their backgrounds to what they are currently learning or trying to manipulate or conceptualize. In the example of the legos, the students are given the freedom and autonomy to create whatever they want. This allows them to inquire, express themselves and make the course content more applicable to their personal lives. Students are able to build onto the pre-existing knowledge and construct knowledge instead of just producing it back to a teacher.
Gil-Pérez, D., Guisasola, J., Moreno, A. et al. Science & Education (2002) 11: 557. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1019639319987