Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Teacher As Expert: The 21st Century Shift From Traditional To Constructivist Teaching

The trajectory of education has substantially shifted throughout the 21st century. As reflected in the first chapter of Interweaving Curriculum and Classroom Management (Drake et al.) the movement from the “old” to “new story” of education has been important for forging the grounds for student centered learning. No longer do teachers focus solely on tests and grades for recognition of student achievement. By incorporating the models of both “assessment as learning” (in which the progress of learning is made evident to student and teachers throughout the unit) as well as “Assessment as learning” (developing self assessment and having students monitor their own individual learning) teachers and students begin to develop a more symbiotic relationship in which both are champions of student development.  Students come to school with different experiences, interests, skills and advancements and as a result, the model of schooling and curriculum has had to make major adjustments to allow for students to thrive in these environments.
Within this chapter the examples “BYOD” was given to demonstrate 21st century adaptations of technology and assessment. Instead of fighting the emergence of technology, schools have acknowledged the presence of devices with their students and therefore are developing interesting ways to use them within the classroom. It is futile to fight against the inevitable and using advances to the advantage of the students can create an environment of interest and understanding. For instance using phones in the classroom will help students to feel as if their teachers are attuned to their interests and learning styles.
Another thing within the chapter that I really liked was the use of “exit cards” as a tool of assessment. In my work with a school last summer I was able to see the use of “exit cards” in a tangible and successful fashion. The student teacher who was teaching almost 100% of the lessons within a certain class designed an exit ticket that was not only visually appealing and exciting to the students, but helped her to understand how the class was understanding her lessons. In the use of exit cards she included three sections, in which students recorded their favorite part of the lesson, things they were confused about and an answer to a trivia question. The student teacher worked very hard to go through these and assess how she as an educator could improve her lessons. In this way, students become a master of their own learning and tech their educators about what they respond well to.
The importance of a drastic shift in the education model is clear as a result of new a diverse learners; however, I wonder how this shift will affect students who have had a predominately traditional based learning experience. I remember when I was in Grade 10 history, my teacher asked us to not memorize information and rather to understand it. Although now that seems pretty standard in terms of educational philosophy, I was really thrown off. Furthermore, when told that we would be tested not on dates and factual information, but rather we would have to discuss comparisons of different historical events I was very confused as how to go about this. Being brought up in a pretty standard model of education (memorize your multiplication tables, testing on dates, specific information) etc, this new teacher who was trying to teach to a constructivist model completely threw our class off. We didn't like her teaching style very much. I understand that if a learner is brought up in this understanding then it may be easier for them to go through a “new story” of education, but for those of us who weren’t the change may be too drastic. Therefore, in changing diverse societies, how can we mirror the change of our education seamlessly to make it useful to students, to ensure the best learning possible?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Alison: Not sure the path of change can ever be smooth. Especially this one. I wonder too about the transition that you experienced. I wonder if a lot of it has to do with assessment. You knew how to regurgitate history answers but not how to articulate understanding - and perhaps without exemplars or ongoing feedback it was confusing to know what to do??? I'm glad you had a good experience with exit cards. As an instructor I can say that I know much better now where my students' understanding of concepts is and what I need to do to facilitate better understanding. Hard work though. Do you appreciate the history teacher now?