kitchen table math, the sequel: Katharine Beals on constructivist selection bias

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Katharine Beals on constructivist selection bias

It has recently occurred to me that one reason why Constructivist classrooms appeal to so many people--including so many newspaper reporters--is because of their inherent selection bias.

Consider this. Only in certain types of classrooms can the Constructivist dream become a reality. Only in certain classrooms, that is, can you have groups of students spending so much of the day doing hands-on group activities without running up against either a shortage of materials or total chaos....

All the factors that favor Constructivism--small class sizes, well-behaved students, in-class parent volunteers, specially-trained teachers--correlate in turn with school district wealth, which correlates in turn with the socio-economic status of the families that enroll at the school.

And, as study after study has shown, high socio-economic status is correlated, independently of particular schools and their pedagogical practices, with academic achievement.

Thus, it's easy to connect the dots between Constructivism and academic success--and pleasant learning environments and compliant children and the crème de la crème of specially-trained teachers (those who win the opportunity to teach such desirable children in such desirable environments)--even though Constructivism per se cannot claim credit.

Constructivist selection bias

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