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Using the constructivist learning theory in the classroom requires the teacher to avoid direct guidance of the students. Instead, she/he sets a learning atmosphere with minimal supervision and maximum opportunity for the students themselves to visualize, articulate, express, explain, interpret, and apply new knowledge.
According to Audrey Gray, a constructivist classroom should be characterized by the following:
- the learners are actively involved
- the environment is democratic
- the activities are interactive and student-centered
- the teacher facilitates a process of learning in which students are encouraged to be responsible and autonomous
Strategies and Activities
1. Role-playing – By simply letting the students take on the role of various book characters, famous historical and current affairs figures, body organs, plant parts, sports materials, the students shall be better able to deeply comprehend the depth and importance of these personalities and entities. In Social Studies, for instance, the teacher can choose a student to internalize the role of a popular dictator while the rest of the class proceed to fire away questions for the person. In Science, a group of students may be assigned to be the different organs of the digestive system and asked to explain how each of them works individually and together with the other organs in the system. In Mathematics, a student may temporarily become a triangle and explain to the class what geometric figures she/he is made of and how his/her perimeter or area is computed. For the story grammar lesson in English, for instance, a group of students may be assigned to be expert geographers (setting), psychologists (characters), counselors (theme), and reporters (plot) to retell a story. Other subject area teachers can easily incorporate these role-playing activities for the deepening of students’ comprehension of important concepts.
2. Hands-on, creative activities - One way to initiate these is for the teacher to pose an open-ended question on how to solve a particular problem. Here, it is important that the teacher’s modelling and scaffolding will not dictate a rigid structure that the students might follow. Present a wide range of options for the students to explore without directly stating what those options are. The key is to make the discussions refreshingly engaging and at the same time within the range of their schemata. After the exchange of ideas, let the students work on the presentation of solutions by way of various creative activities, such as choral recitation, commercials, flyers, multimedia presentations, conferences or request for community involvement from the rest of the student body.
3. Real-life simulations – The constructivist teacher believes that students learn best by experience. By simulating real-life situations and immersing the students in these setups, the teacher successfully gives a very practical and useful venue for the students to do their critical thinking and exploring. How is this done? In Math, for instance, an activity on counting money may be a day in the grocery store with only a limited amount of money on hand. The students may be asked to buy the needed items on their list by carefully noting down each item’s price and budgeting their money to be able to afford all the necessary goods on their list. In Science, a trip outside the school grounds to the nearest safe highway may be a good observation place for students learning about the nature and description of the by-products of combustion.
The key to a successful constructivist classroom is an interactive relationship between the learner, the task, and the teacher who will largely act as a facilitator of learning without depriving the students of experiencing learning and discovering knowledge on their own. Use strategies for constructivist teaching for effective experiential learning.