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Skills and Best Practices

Lesson 2: Skills and Best Practices

The Constructivist Classroom

Constructivist classrooms are structured so that learners are immersed in experiences within which they may engage in meaning-making inquiry, action, imagination, invention, interaction, hypothesizing and personal reflection. Teachers need to recognize how people use their own experiences, prior knowledge and perceptions, as well as their physical and interpersonal environments to construct knowledge and meaning. The goal is to produce a democratic classroom environment that provides meaningful learning experiences for autonomous learners.

North Central Regional Educational Laboratory

http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/envrnmnt/drugfree/sa3const.htm

This site provides a research-based rationale for using constructivist strategies in the classroom including such things as:

  • The brain is a parallel processor”. It simultaneously processes many different types of information, including thoughts, emotions, and cultural knowledge. Effective teaching employs a variety of learning strategies.
  • “Learning engages the entire physiology”. Teachers can’t address just the intellect.
  • “The search for meaning is innate” Effective teaching recognizes that meaning is personal and unique, and that students’ understandings are based on their own unique experiences.
  • “The search for meaning occurs through ‘patterning’ “. Effective teaching connects isolated ideas and information with global concepts and themes.
  • “Emotions are critical to patterning” Learning is influenced by emotions, feelings, and attitudes.
  • “The brain processes parts and wholes simultaneously”. People have difficulty learning when either parts or wholes are overlooked.
  • “Learning involves both focused attention and peripheral perception”. Learning is influenced by the environment, culture, and climate.
  • “Learning always involves conscious and unconscious processes” Students need time to process ‘how’ as well as ‘what’ they’ve learned.
  • “We have at least two different types of memory: a spatial memory system, and a set of systems for rote learning”. Teaching that heavily emphasizes rote learning does not promote spatial, experienced learning and can inhibit understanding.
  • “We understand and remember best when facts and skills are embedded in natural, spatial memory” Experiential learning is most effective.
  • “Learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat”. The classroom climate should be challenging but not threatening to students.
  • “Each brain is unique. Teaching must be multifaceted to allow students to express preferences.

Concept Development

Teach higher-order thinking while you’re teaching concepts, skills, and content!

The indispensable guide below combines proven curriculum design with teaching methods that encourage students to learn concepts as well as content and skills for deep understanding across all subject areas. Synthesizing Lynn Erickson’s past 15 years of field work with teachers, curriculum developers, teacher educators, and instructional leaders, this resource offers a complete guide to designing curriculum and instruction that foster the continuous growth and development of a student’s critical, abstract, and creative learning skills. Educators will learn how to:

Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction for the Thinking Classroom
Authored by: H. Lynn Erickson, Educational Consultant, Everett, WA

  • Bring coherence and clarity to high-quality curriculum design and instructional planning
  • Teach the way that students’ minds learn best
  • Encourage students’ creative and abstract thinking, regardless of level or subject area
  • Gain the support of principals and district administrators

Using Complex Sources

For most people, being able to read and being able to understand what they are reading are key to their ability to creatively and effectively process information and live successful lives.

The site below discusses the following elements as critical in helping students understand complex information in a text or other primary or secondary social studies sources of information:

http://www.ku-crl.org/archives/misc/pressley.shtml

  • Teach decoding skills
  • Encourage the development of sight words
  • Teach students to use semantic context cues to evaluate whether decodings are accurate
  • Teach vocabulary meanings
  • Encourage extensive reading
  • Encourage students to ask themselves why the ideas related in a text make sense
  • Teach self-regulated use of comprehension strategies

Each topic is addressed in detail in this site.