The last two weeks we’ve been studying some learning theories, namely Behaviorism and Cognitivism, and as you may remember last week I explained that they’re not in competition. In fact, they address different aspects of classroom life and curriculum development. Behaviorism helps in planning how I’m going to develop routines and best practices in my classroom, as well as address student actions (praise appropriate ones, censure inappropriate ones). Cognitivism addresses how both short-term and long-term memories are stored and ways to structure lessons that promote long-term retention.
This week, we’re studying Constructivism and its practical application theory Constructionism. These theories suggest that the best way to create a meaningful learning experience for students is by building something, by creating an artifact that demonstrates what the students have learned (Laureate, 2008). As an Art teacher whose students are constantly making artifacts that illustrate what they’ve learned and practiced, this is music to my ears. And once again, this theory is not competing for supremacy with the other theories, as Cognitivism explained the importance of Experiential Memories, and Constructionism insists on a teacher giving her students learning experiences.
Finally, we were introduced to a few strategies aimed at putting Constructionism into practice. One such strategy is to use Project-based Learning (PBLs), which are spectacular if done right. PBLs [http://pbl-online.org/] are assignments wherein a group of students are given a problem to solve collaboratively, yet each individual has a specific role essential to the solution. PBLs require communication, team work, research, presentation skills and the creation of a product that illustrates the learning and serves as an authentic assessment. Simply put, they are real-world challenges given to students to discuss, solve and present as though they are in a professional environment. The teacher does all of the work up front, and acts as guide or facilitator throughout the project. I do a Graphic Novel PBL with my beginning Art students in high school and it’s a favorite project with the kids every year because it feels ‘real’ to them.
Have any of you developed PBLs that ‘worked?’
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2008). Constructionist and constructivist learning theories. Bridging Learning Theory, Instruction and Technology. Laureate Education, Inc.
Learn What Defines Project Based Learning. (2010). Project Based Learning. Retrieved July 20, 2010 from http://pbl-online.org/