In my academic research, I have heard the term “constructivism” used quite a bit and run across names like Lev Vygotsky, but I have never had a complete understanding of what it meant. An reading from Jacqueline and Martin Brooks’ In Search Of Understanding: The Case for Constructivist Classrooms (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1993) answered many of the questions I had about the theory and the various pedagogies with which the theory is associated. To augment my understanding of the reading, I did a little bit of research on the internet, including the Wikipedia articles on constructivist theory, constructivist teaching methods, and some of the key theorists, including Vygotsky.
The idea that constructivism is based on “active involvement” as opposed to “passive reception” is almost so obvious that it is confusing. I don’t think I’ve ever known any teachers who thought “passive reception” was an effective way for students to learn, so the fact that such a theory could have been controversial in my lifetime caused me to wonder if I was missing something. What helped to get a better grasp on the theory is the idea that constructivism builds on knowledge the student already knows through a process of guided discovery. This view of constructivism is something I feel I can really use in my work.
What I found most helpful in the chapter I read was the clear outlining of pedagogical methods that Brooks and Brooks say are used by constructivist teachers. For future reference, I made a note of these twelve methods. I also made a note of major constructivist theorists mentioned in Wikipedia in order to guide my future research in this area. Brooks and Brooks mention that many teachers feel constructivism reflects the way they think people learn but resist constructivist-influenced pedagogy for various reasons. I would like to think that I already incorporate many of their methods in my own classroom, but I now have a much better sense of the things I can keep in mind when planning my lessons.