When we consider constructivist teaching, or a constructivist approach to learning, what comes to mind? For me, I see Socrates standing not in the center, but to the side of his students.
I imagine him pondering their comments and questions, and carefully crafting questions of his own, which he contributes -- selectively. Most importantly, he doesn't lead, but follows the line of questioning of the students.
That's really what it's all about: being an questioner, an investigator side-by-side with your students. That doesn't mean we shouldn't have a solid lesson plan ready to go each day, but we should be ready -- and willing -- for the students to take the class into unchartered waters.
Let me give you an example from my own teaching experience. In an American Literature class I taught a while back, we had made our way through transcendentalism, stopping off at Henry Thoreau. Here, I had a few lessons on civil disobedience planned.
Day one, we watched a video excerpt on Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat...
Then, the students began talking about racial profiling and wouldn't move on.
Mostly African-American and Latino, my [11th grade] students began sharing stories of racial profiling from their own lives, and the lives of their families and friends.
One thing leads to another, and 2 weeks later students hand in their culminating projects:
- "One group made a brochure titled, 'How to Protect Yourself When DWB (Driving While Black/Brown).'"
- "Another group created a presentation poster on the history and statistics of racial profiling"
- "[Teacher's] favorite project was an instructional video for police officers on how to build trust with the community."
You'd think there'd be a couple of verbal/linguistic types mixed in somewhere.
TerriW leaves this comment:
At what point do you really need to stop calling something an "American Literature" class -- what percentage of the class should be, I dunno, American Lit?
I mean, at a certain point, you have to start calling it "cheese food" instead of cheese...