Monday, March 19, 2007

Memoirs of a school student

I have been reading a lot about constructivist theory lately and I personally hold to a social constructivist theory of teaching. But it got me thinking. Constructivism as explained by Vygotsky in the late 70s is built upon a lot of Dewey's work which was written in the early 1900s. This school of thought is not new.

"The movement of a swimmer does not 'resemble' that of a wave, in particular, the movements of the swimming instructor which we reproduce on the sand bear no relation to the movements of the wave, which we learn to deal with only by grasping the former in practice as signs. That is why it is so difficult to say someone learns: there is an innate or acquired practical familiarity with signs, which means that there is something amorous - but also something fatal - about all education. We learn nothing from those who say: 'Do as I do'. Our only teachers are those who tell us to 'do with me', and are able to emit signs to be developed in heterogeneity rather than propose gestures for us to reproduce" (Gilles Deleuze, 1994, 23).

I assert that the most powerful learning takes place because of ‘do with me’. Learning happens jointly, collaboratively, with and from each other, the teacher and strangers. Students require authentic audiences, and authentic contexts to motivate learning.

Davis and Sumara (2002) suggest that constructivism is popular with people interested in the processes of learning, and this is certainly the case for me. I am intrigued watching the students construct their meanings as they interact with each other and the world around them. I particularly hold to the theory of social constructivism, which is linked with Lev Vygotsky (see Davis and Sumara, 2002 p 192). I believe that students construct and then reconstruct their knowledge to ever more complex levels because of their interaction with others and their environment.

So what? Well, I started thinking about my own time as a student. I was in primary school in the 70s and high school in the 80s, surely I must have experienced some form of constructivism. My early memories of primary school include being a milk monitor; being a sports monitor; being publicly humiliated when I was a subject of bullying and started to cry, the perpetrator chanted at me 'don't worry mummy still loves you' and then the teacher said 'he's right, your mummy still does love you'. I was mortified!; Speed reading lessons where I was put in a dark room and text was flashed onto a screen in front of me one line at a time at increasing speeds (what was that about?); and sports days. Mmmm, no memories of following my own interests or working with others in my primary school days.

What about high school then? I can remember an English teacher who treated me with respect and gave me a passion for words and literature. He let us watch videos of Breaker Morant and Gallipoli in class and nothing was said as I cried. I can remember a Geography teacher who brought in reels of his holidays in remote places in the world and talked about Geography from experience and with passion. Maybe there were elements of constructivism sneaking into my high school. Pockets.

It is now 2007, why, in some schools, do I still see rows of students with books open to the same page, all working on the same task? Constructivism makes so much sense, why do things take so long to change?

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Couldn't find a comment place on your last post so commented here instead.

Toondoo is a total timewaster and shouldn't have been linked to.