If I behave and work cognitively, can I construct something?

I don’t know where everyone comes from in this course, but I may be one of the few Educational Psychology peeps in the class. Hurray for electives! The understanding of how people learn has always been a curious subject to me as a teacher, grad student in this field, and as a coach. The two different worlds hold their various similarities and differences, but one of those similarities is that process of “attempting” to transfer knowledge to another so that they may be able to understand and apply it. The arguments over whether or not students learn best with behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism have been debated at length over the years.

The other night as a class it appeared we came to the conclusion that constructivism is the ideal choice for higher learning. It has students “constructing” their own knowledge. This can include things like inquiry, problem-based learning, reciprocal/group teaching (peer to peer) etc. Can we always do this? Boy I wish we could. However, where did the skills to be able to behave in class come from to be able to have them listen to instruction. Where did they develop the ability to organize and process the information the find in something like an inquiry project. I think before we get to constructivism we have to use the other two, behaviorism and cognitivism, as stepping stones to get there. This is what is currently influencing my teaching style as I have tried to jump straight to constructivism with my high schoolers, and it doesn’t always work out.

First, let’s address the elephant in the room. Depending on what age-level you are teaching, your students may not be developmentally ready for one learning theory vs. the other. Well, this also might not be technically true and I’ll elaborate on my thinking shortly here. However, if you are teaching early years, for ex. kindergarten, there will most likely be a lot more behaviorism methods used, as you are literally teaching tiny humans how to act socially and what is appropriate and not appropriate. Again, quite literally behaviorism. As for the the other methods I still think something like constructivism could be utilized at the younger age, as mentioned earlier. When I was in the 3rd grade I missed a day of school and missed learning how to divide. Instead of my teacher pulling me aside, she got another student who had it locked down teach me in the hallway quick as my teacher was busy with the others. My 8 year-old peer was able to teach me and demonstrate constructivism even at this young age.They did this by relating the material to my life and asking me questions about what happens when I put my 30 star wars Lego figurines (I was very proud of them) into groups of 3? To me what this shows confirms a piece from Ch. 2: The Nature of Knowledge and implication of teaching, “It can be seen that there can be ‘degrees’ of constructivism

What I think I’m trying to get at is in my mind is that I label early-year learners as having more behaviorism based theories, middle-years as having more cognitive based theories (organizing info, beginning to understand systems, etc) and secondary-based learning as operating more in the constructivism theory. In terms of progression, this makes sense to me. Learn how to act in the world, learn how to process info, use these two to work with new knowledge. However, as discussed earlier, while I think one theory dominates one age group more (and who am I to say whether that is right or not?) I firmly believe that the other theories can play roles in those categories as well (note: the peer teaching me to divide situation. Thanks, Breanna)

I teach high school, mainly grade 9 and 10. This age range is difficult because everyone can be in so many different places developmentally. In the past, I gave an inquiry assignment that wasn’t done the best because I had assumed many kids were able to synthesize and organize new information on their own. Many were not able to and this has led me to do more scaffolding activities. Besides classroom expectations, we can skip through a lot of behaviorist methods (see how they still have impact at this age? Not in the traditionally learning context of your answer is right or wrong but literally in behavior), and jump right to making sure students have some of the processing capabilities that they would have inherited from cognitive theory. Once I make sure the students have that down, can we progress to the more constructivist learning styles like inquiry.

Ultimately, what influences my teaching styles these days are where my kids are at when I get them and then looking to where we need to be. I feel like coming to understand their starting point, and we can do this through diagnostics and other mini what do you know activities, we can better see what we need to touch upon to ideally get to that constructivist style.

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