Constructivism

During my college course on sustainability and environmental studies, my professor took a Constructivist approach to learning. He would present topics such as global warming, carbon footprints, and political beliefs for class debates. The discussions and debates allowed us to learn from each other while challenging us to think differently about these topics. These discussions had a profound effect on me and remain some of the most memorable of my entire college career.

With Constructivism, learning builds upon what we already know as a foundation before proceeding to what is new or unknown. Similar to constructing a house, instructors can provide scaffolding as a foundation for their students, enabling them to build upon what they already know as they continue learning new skills.

I have personally experienced this type of scaffolding with my math and science courses. As a student, teachers taught us the foundational skills of basic mathematical formulas and scientific knowledge before moving on to more advanced material that built upon those same skills.

As an instructor myself, one scaffolding strategy that I use is teaching learners the basics of JavaScript coding first, before moving on to more advanced code. I break the code down into small pieces, and teach my students about variables and functions individually, before combining them into increasingly complex lines of code.

I take a hands-on approach by modeling the proper code for my learners and then allowing them to write their own code while I assist them with debugging any error messages. When students are struggling, I offer hints and clues or ask them open-ended questions to assist them rather than immediately telling them the answer. My goal is to teach them critical thinking skills while also gradually raising their confidence and their coding abilities.

In the extremely popular Minecraft courses that I facilitate for kids, I teach children (ages 6-14 years) how to read and write JavaScript code by using their favorite video game (Minecraft) as a learning tool. I will often break the classes into pairs of 2 students to allow for social constructivism. I try to match students who have a good grasp on the material with others who might be struggling, and I walk through the room and assist each pair with their code. As the students work together to solve problems and create solutions, they gain confidence and begin to develop a better grasp on the course material.

As you can imagine, all of these Constructivist approaches to learning help my learners to take an active role in constructing their own knowledge.

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