Discuss the learning principles, which are incorporated into the constructivist model of learning and then describe and evaluate the teaching models developed from it.
Constructivism is a psychologically based theory that learning is personal. This theory according to Arnet (1997) is based on the belief that we concept and understand information differently. Constructivism has been used to develop learning models used in school. According to McInerney & McInerney, (2010), constructivism is founded on three concepts; the relation between thoughts and actions, the construction process of human cognitive structure, and self-regulation. These concepts are applicable to the human conceptualization process but they vary per individual. This theory therefore seems to develop learning models that maximize on individual understanding of a single event.
Constructivism is guided by five principles as stated by McInerney & McInerney, (2010);
Scaffolding: this principle requires that teaching should be a journey from what is unknown to what is known. Through this way, the learner is able to recollect past events and use them as a stepping-stone to understand new things. At the start of the process, the teacher is required to guide the students but withdraw gradually with time. At the end, the teacher should withdraw fully. By this time, the student has build on confidence and can now solve problems without or with little help. Scaffolding impacts the learner with problem solving skills and it is based on three categories; skills the learner cannot perform, skills the learner maybe able to perform, and skills the learner can perform with help. The specific category depends on the stage of the scaffolding process.
Student engagement: constructivist theory requires that the student’s views be heard and respected (McInerney & McInerney, 2010, Arnett, 1997). Based on the self-regulation concept, different persons understand a single event or instruction in a different manner. To ensure that every student has got the right and intended idea of a learning event, it is only right that they are engaged in the learning process. This can be down through question answer or through group discussion.
Conceptualized learning: this principle requires that the learning process should be structured around the primary concepts of constructivist learning. It should make use of previous events in the learner’s life, which help them understand the current issues.
Emerging relevance problems: the basis of constructivist is problem solving (Pavlova, 2005). It is therefore necessary that as the learning process progresses and advances, learners are engaged on problem solving. The question posed should be of emerging relevance natures.
Context assessment: assessment is a tool for gauging the impact of the learning process to the students. This principle requires that any assessment done should be within the context of the taught material.
Based on these principles, there are several teaching models developed from it. An evaluation of a model of learning built on constructivist theory show;
There are different knowledge components in the learning process. These components are referred to as lessons, courses or subjects in everyday class. However, these subjects do not blur the constructivist’s idea. As the idea borrows its concepts from real life, it is structured in a manner to assimilate real life. One, out of class, a learner does not face life as segments but a single complex whole of facts, problems, perceptions and dimensions (Keirl, 2002). To assimilate this to the learning process, these subjects are all structured in a manner to form a single whole. At the end of the day, a learner in a constructivist model of learning is required with the necessary skills, knowledge and mental readiness to tackle and solve the problems they face in the real world. Therefore, the different subjects are designed in a manner to form an integrated whole.
The aspect of constant challenges is also part of a constructivist-learning model (Arnett, 1997). There is this common saying that, “life is not a bed of roses” and this features seems to borrow from the same. Learners are constantly challenged with tasks that refer them to the knowledge and skills relevant to the context learnt but with elements behold their current level. This serves to motivate the learner and build on their confidence level (McInerney & McInerney, 2010).
Learning models based on the constructivism seek to assimilate the real world where the learner will operate in after education as much as possible. This is why there are practical sessions in the majority of subjects in the constructivism learning theory. The best example is in higher education levels where the student us expected to undertake industrial attachment where he or she gets to experience the real environment. This assimilation of real environment is meant to engage while at the same time challenge the learner as much as possible (Pavlova, 2005). According to John (2005), both the environment and task of learn should reflect the complexity of the real out-of-class environment.
- Analyze the stage 5 (years 9 & 10) Design & Technology syllabus (or equivalent in your state) in terms of the constructivist teaching and learning models discussed in part 1. In doing this you need to examine the rationale, aims, objectives, outcomes and the organization of content sections of the syllabus and make judgments about the design of the syllabus and the teaching approaches outlined.
The stage 5 design and technology syllabus is set within the parameters set by the Board of Studies NSW. These parameters are in the K-10 Curriculum Framework that ensures education provided to 9 & 10 year old students in engaging and challenging, enables them build positive self-concepts, prepares students for effective and responsible contribution to the society, motivate learners to enjoy learning, promote fairness and justice and build on coherence and continuity. The K-10 syllabus has a rationale, aim, objectives which guide on the same.
Rationale: human beings change their environment in an effort to make their living better. Technology is dynamic and it’s developed to ensure that it helps people make the best out of their environment. Design and technology is therefore built on capability to cope with rapid change, to express creativity…etc in an effort to thrive in upcoming Australian and global market. The country needs generations that understand the holistic nature of design and technology (McInerney & McInerney, 2010). The system should therefore be able to prepare the learner to think and generate solution for the problems facing the society.
Design and technology education to students in stage 5 provides experience through a range of context that answers the questions why and how. This allows the students to investigate safely on existing technologies and sets a base for the development of new solutions. The syllabus allows students develop aesthetic and functional design solutions, which serve to encourage innovation and creativity. For the successful teaching of this course, ICT tools are necessary (Keirl, 2002). By the age of ten years, the learner has sufficient information and experience to maintain effectively existing design and technology solution while at the same time, able to create new strategies for the betterment of the people’s economy and way of life.
Aims: stage 5 design and technology education is designed to engage students in innovation of technology and design while at the same time analyzing their impact on persons, the society and the environment.
Objectives: stage 5 syllabus should enable students to develop;
i. knowledge as well as understand the concepts and process of designing
ii. understanding and appreciate past, current, and emerging technologies
iii. understanding the trends in designing work
iv. skills and understand innovation, enterprise and creativeness
v. required skills for communication of ideas and design solutions
vi. Skills needed to manage resources and for the production of working design and technology solutions.
Outcomes: the outcomes for the stage 5 syllabus are dependent on the objectives. The outcomes are achieved through a process and for the realization of stage 5 outcomes; stage 4 plays a major preparatory role (McInerney & McInerney, 2010). The outcomes for stage 5 include:
i. analysis of design concepts and process as well as applying them
ii. justification of design processes in development of design ideas
iii. evaluation of past, current and emerging technological and design strategies on individual, society and environmental levels
Content organization: the primary role of design and technology education is design, produce, and evaluation of designed solutions. This process requires students to be thoroughly engaged in the design process. The organization is in such a way that the “design focus area” is at the core and on the sides are design project and core content areas. The design project gears towards designing solutions and their documentation while the content areas are build around holistic approach, design process and designer activities.
The design and technology process under the stage 5 syllabus is based on the constructivist theory. The setting of the units of work should be done with the interests of the learner at hand. According to John (2005), the course should undertake a hands-on approach. Students taking 100-hour course work are required to complete between two and four units of work. On the other hand, students taking 200-hour course should take between three and six units of work. At the end of each course, either the 100-hour or the 200-hour, the teachers take the time to address all outcomes.
This step ensures that the student’s personal issues are addresses and the conceptualization of the context is in the manner intended. According to Keirl (2002), a teacher can go as far as availing additional content to ensure that the student understands the context better.
To ensure the content is well understood by the students, assessment is done. The syllabus promotes personal-evaluation on the outcomes. This is done through reflection and it serves to build self-progression and creates persons who are self-starters in the industry after education.
Arnett, J. J. (1997), Young People’s Conceptions of the Transition to Adulthood, Youth & Society 29(1), 3–21
John, D. (2005). Technology Education as Solo Activity or Socially Constructed Learning. International Journal of Technology and Design Education 15:73–89
Keirl, S. (2002). A Moment in Design and Technology Curriculum Development as a Component of Educational Reform’, in M. Pavlova & M. Gurevich (eds.), Learning in Technology Education: Challenges for Technology Education in the Context of Globalization, National Technology Education Center, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, 153–167.
McInerney, D. M., & McInerney, V. (2010). Piaget, Vygotsky, constructivism and effective learning. In Educational psychology: constructing learning (5th Ed.) (pp. 35-67). Frenchs Forest, NSW: Pearson Australia.
Pavlova, M. (2005). Social Change: How Should Technology Education Respond? International Journal of Technology and Design Education 15:199–215