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In Piaget’s constructivism theory, it is assumed that (i) there is no tabula rasa – that learners come to learning situations with prior knowledge; and (ii) learning is active rather than passive – learners are not passive listeners but remain active throughout.

It is worth noting how Twomey Fosnot (1989) defines constructivism through four principles:

  • learning  depends on what we already know;
  • new ideas occur as we adapt and change our old ideas;
  • learning involves inventing ideas rather than mechanically accumulating facts;
  • meaningful learning occurs through rethinking old ideas and coming to new conclusions about new ideas which conflict with old ideas.

A productive, constructivist classroom, then, consists of learner­-centered, active instruction.

What does this mean on the role of the teacher? The traditional teacher who is a “sage on stage” now performs the role of a “guide on the side.”  The teacher then, should be willing to give up the traditional position of “expert” in the classroom and that the domination of teacher-talk should no longer exist.

How can a teacher – who has been an authority in the classroom transform into a new role?  A number of recommendations and best practice approaches are outlined below:

  • a process approach to learning – the teacher will allow ideas to develop in the learner’s own mind and not just to transmit the information, and this is through series of supportive activities;
  • negotiating a curriculum – meaning that students are deliberately invited to contribute to the planning of education programs that fit their needs;
  • teacher is a researcher – continuously gathering data on student performance through observations and formative assessments, and use that to refine the teaching approach;
  • teacher allows democratic management of the classroom – by structuring the learning environment towards shared control where there is reciprocity, cooperation and collaboration;
  • teacher uses indirect form of control and empowers students by giving them responsibilities and encouraging them to be self­controlling and autonomous – able to hypothesize, question, investigate, imagine, reflect

Constructivism is not really new in the Philippine education system, as we can see in the articulation of the new K to 12 curriculum, the elements and principles of a learner-centered approach.  However, the big question is whether teachers – who have been trained in the old school “ sage on stage” role are able to transform themselves into a consultant or mentor role?  And we can not totally fault the teachers, because despite the decentralisation thrust of basic education, the management of public schools remain very centric, and such culture transcends from central to schools.  Teaching is still mostly textbook based – including the questions that the teacher ask in class, and students do mostly paper and pencil exercises.

I wish to end with a positive note, that with the increasing use of internet, teachers (public and private) now have the opportunity to enhance their teaching approaches.  The use of multi-media in the classroom enhances the constructivist theory for learner-centered approach.  And with  this, I commend DepED for the Learning Resources Portal.

References:

1. Overview of student-centered and Constructivist Approaches to Instruction, retrieved from http://wps.ablongman.com/ab_slavin_edpsych_8/38/9953/2548032.cw/index.html

2. DepED K-12 curriculum retrieved from http://www.deped.gov.ph/k-to-12/About/features

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