What types of teaching and learning are best explained by constructivism

After completing my readings, I identify my teaching philosophy as constructivism. Looking back at the beginning of my teaching career, I was striving to integrate constructivism learning philosophy into my classroom. As quote by Peggy A. Ertmer and Timothy J. Newby (cited in Bednar et al., 1991) “An essential concept in the constructive view is that learning always takes place in a context and that the context forms an inexorable link with the knowledge embedded in it” It is my belief that an ESL classroom for communicative purposes should create English situations in meaningful environments, and in a certain cultural atmosphere, using real tasks and some daily activities or practices in the learning field to realize the transfer of knowledge in the classroom to the outside of the classroom.

In a teaching environment with communicative purposes and situational contexts, I am no longer a simple knowledge giver, but a person who facilitates the communication process. I will walk around the classroom, listen to students’ ideas and provide necessary help to guide students to enrich and adjust their understanding of knowledge. At the same time, I will encourage students to participate in the discussion with teachers and peers and prompt them to ask questions with each other.

In my first three years of the teaching career,  students always played a passive role, which greatly reduced the efficiency of English teaching. Given that English is a foreign language in China, students have little chance to use English after class, in-class participation is particularly important, constructivism in my teaching practice proves that establishing a teaching scenario (situation)  is an effective way to fully motivate students’ interest in learning, in such a vivid and effective teaching context, students complete a variety of communicative activities, and peer interaction, became an active participant.

I used to be a dictator, which means that students in my classroom were just people who accept knowledge. They just needed to listen to me carefully in the classroom to explain them each knowledge point and finished the task as I asked them to. On the contrary, when I introduced the constructivist teaching theory into my classroom, students naturally showed their distinct self-consciousness and active participation awareness, and their initiative was enhanced. Learning becomes the process in which students construct their own knowledge and interact with new and old knowledge.

Learners build personal interpretations of the world based on individual experiences and interactions. 

Students are not only the recipients of external information, but more importantly, they will actively choose, process and create that information. In classroom activities, I will encourage students to make some guesses and assumptions, and verify these assumptions through the construction of meaning in the context of language. Such a hypothesis-testing process is a very effective way to internalize grammar rules and acquire authentic expressions such as collocations.

However, at the same time, I have to admit that in the process of integrating constructivist philosophy into my English teaching practice, I also encountered some problems, such as how to establish a teaching scenario that is compatible with students’ existing knowledge structure, because if this scenario or situation is way too far beyond students’ the range of existing knowledge, which may frustrate their enthusiasm for learning.

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