Every education class, inservice training, etc. shapes my philosophy of teaching and learning. I feel as though it is constantly evolving. Not only has this class played a part, but the entirety of this year while aiding in student’s education during a global pandemic has helped me grow as an educator. I’ve learned to become more creative and add different resources or tools to my repertoire.
The basis of how I operate as an educator is through the constructivist theory.
Constructivism believes in personal construction of meaning by the learner through experience, and that meaning is influenced by the interaction of prior knowledge and new eventsArends (1998)
It is important to discuss prior knowledge or help build prior knowledge for a student before delving into a new concept. This is often done in a group setting. Students have shared experiences and knowledge most of the time (such as similar types of hobbies or media), and can be helpful in making connections for other students. I also strive to remind students why they are learning what they are learning – remind them of the purpose for this to be taught. While in the classroom and activities for homeschool, a lot of my teaching is through project based learning (PBL). Students are actively engaged in meaningful, real-world projects. In my basic K-5th grade programming lesson (when we were able to meet before COVID), the lesson was incorporated into a real-world problem. The goal was programming the technology to a do series of codes, how we got to the series of codes was through meaningful conversations about what could help in the real world. We had discussed what we needed to make a flourishing city. We built a hospital, a grocery store, a police station, a library, a school, etc. We are now going to build a robot to help our city. What was the robot going to accomplish to better the city? Was it going to help the environment? Was it going to help people who are disabled live easier lives? These types of activities where you are not only learning the task (in this case programming), you are teaching and having discussions about real world issued such as environment and running a town. I think that it was said best in the “A Constructivist Approach to Online Learning: The Community of Inquiry Framework” by Karen Swan when it said,
Dewey (1938) argued that it is the responsibility of the educator to establish aims and activities,but not to be straight-jacketed by them.Swan, K.,Garrison, D. R. & Richardson, J. C. (2009). A constructivist approach to online learning: the Community of Inquiry framework. In Payne, C. R. (Ed.) Information Technology and Constructivism in Higher Education:Progressive Learning Frameworks. Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 43-57
The lesson would not have been as meaningful if we just talked about how to program the robot. It is important to talk to students about why we are doing activities, why we are learning concepts and how we will achieve that knowledge. Project based learning takes us through Bloom’s Taxonomy in a way. Students are learning new information and the goal is to apply it at the end in a real-world way. When working with real-world problems and application, it is important for students to reflect. Reflection is a skill that doesn’t come very naturally, so it takes time to build. In a student’s Individual Learning Plan (ILP), a student gets to choose any goal they would like to accomplish. The goal could be academic such as learning their times table. The goal could be career driven such as meeting the physical requirements for the Coast Guard training test. The goal could be fun such as building a spy fort in the backyard. The purpose of the ILP is so that students can make a goal, follow the steps, and complete it. In that goal there is always a reflection time. Students are asked the question:
- How did it go?
- What could you have done better?
- What did you learn?
It is a series of connections that never ends, like a spider’s web. There is a starting point and through connections of different lessons, stories, activities, experiences, it expands into this well-rounded knowledgeable web of information.
I’ve had practice applying this philosophy to the classroom and through the homeschool space. This class helped me learn how to apply this philosophy in an online space and made me realized that it requires a different type of teaching. Prior to this, I would say that my instructions were pretty loose. I had a few rules and requirements for assignments, wanting students to express themselves in a way that feels authentic to them. In this online space that kind of freedom can be limiting. I’ve learned that instructions need to be very clear and that it is important showcase examples. Though online learning is modeled after the traditional classroom most times, it is a different culture and therefore requires different tools. This class has also helped me to think about differentiation for online teaching. There are so many different resources available to us that it is a great tool if we can incorporate different materials that can help our students need as they navigate learning online.