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"To learn in a constructivist sense implies that the ways in which teachers encourage students to change their ideas in science is a critical issue" (Skamp k. 1998 pxiv).

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

"To learn in a constructivist sense implies that the ways in which teachers encourage students to change their ideas in science is a critical issue" (Skamp k. 1998 pxiv) As the quote tells us, how we change children's minds from the limited knowledge they have already gained from previous experience, or misconceptions they may have constructed during these experiences is a "critical issue." Therefore, how we do this must be classed as highly important. If we as teachers are going to teach in a constructivist manner, we must be careful as to the guidance we give them. We are there merely, as Ollerenshaw and Ritchie (1998) state, "the enabler, the catalyst, the mirror, the challenger." It is our responsibility to bring the child and experience together, in a supportive, stimulating environment, and then with the aid of our professional expertise, ensure there is interaction between them. We must only intervene, with help not answers. We are there as guiders rather than instructors. "Constructivist learning is in the learner, the teacher acting as a facilitator of learning, providing experience which challenge and extend understanding rather than an instructor." (Littledyke & Huxford, 1998, p14) Therefore the children must be independently and actively involved in developing and using effective ways of investigating and critical thinking. As believed by De Boo (2000) and Johnston (1996) children learn best through first hand experiences. Having 'hand's on' experiences is therefore crucial as it allows the child to test their thoughts and actually see them in action. This, in turn, gives children clarity to their ideas and develops pre-existing concepts into being modified or replaced. This 'doing' would also make it more likely that the children retain the information that they have discovered for themselves. Kelly (1955) talks about "everyman being his own scientist" and that pupils learn best when they are actively constructing their own learning. Constructivism can often be referred to as a 'progressive' method of teaching (Piaget 1926). ...read more.

Middle

I observed Rodney, one of my low ability children, carrying out the investigation. I saw from his table of results that his predictions and results were present and correct. I decided to intervene to question his knowledge and understanding and maybe take it further. The discussion between us is as follows: Teacher: So what can you tell me from your results Rodney? Rodney: That the magnet sticks to the ...um...scissors...and...um...the fork. Teacher: And what are those objects made from? Rodney: Metal Teacher: so this metal (meaning the magnet) sticks to those metals (meaning the objects he had chosen.) Rodney: No... the magnet sticks to those. Teacher: so what is the magnet made of then? Rodney: Nothing...no...I don't know it's just a magnet!...plastic? From this I could see that Rodney had had no past experience with magnets and therefore had no knowledge that magnets are made of metal. All he knew was that the object he held in his hand was called a 'magnet' and that it stuck to metal objects. He had guessed that the magnet was made of plastic (probably due to the fact that it was coated in plastic) and constructed a misconception. On analysing this conversation I concluded that carrying my investigation out in a constructivist manner and pitching my investigation at an intermediate level, had missed Rodney's (and no doubt others) 'starting point' of subject knowledge leading him to create his own incorrect idea. I believe this evidence contradicts a constructivist way of teaching as without positively intervening, questioning and explaining to Rodney that the magnet was made of metal, more problems may have arise in the form of further misconceptions or being unable to carry out following work effectively. Instead it matches Littledykes & Huxtons (1998) suggestion that matching every child's 'starting point' is extremely challenging and if not done accurately, as shown from the evidence, can cause problems for the child. ...read more.

Conclusion

In keeping with the title, the discovery approach allows the child to discover for themselves. Discovery learning is based on the premise that "...if children are presented with the right materials and asked open-ended questions they will learn by discovering for themselves the concepts that lie in wait." (Ollerenshaw & Ritchie, 1998, p7) An advantage to this method is that it is very experimental, nonetheless it may not provide an apparent understanding of the learning the child is undertaking but it is argued that discovery based learning does not take into account what the child already knows and understands. Although similar, it is important to make the distinction between discovery and constructivist methods of teaching. In conclusion, I believe that constructivism is an effective way in enabling children to build on or amend active ideas as it allows the child to undertaking 'hands on' activities and actually appreciate a theory in action. This in turn could either deepen understanding or change misconceptions they may have emerged throughout the topic. Practical activities subsequently help the children to retain the information as 'doing' experiments, which are of interest to them, help them remember the vital information needed. These facts could then be recalled instantaneously when re-visiting and building on a similar topic, later on in the curriculum. Due to all the disadvantages mentioned earlier in my assignment, it is obvious that constructivism cannot stand-alone. It is acceptable to use constructivist methods but they must be used in conjunction with other teaching methods also mentioned earlier. This, as teachers, is down to our professional judgement to decide when and where they should be used. The right teaching style should accommodate the right job and although constructivism is a sound way to allow children to investigate, it does not always fit the purpose of the scientific investigation wanting to be carried out. However I believe that we adopt many different teaching styles throughout a lesson without even knowing it. "We probably all use different approaches at different times and for different purposes. ...read more.

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