Class Notes: Constructivism and the Student-Centered Approach
"When you make the finding yourself even if you’re the last person on Earth to see the light you’ll never forget it."
It is helpful to look critically at both teacher-centered and student-centered courses to see which technique might be worth adapting and which may not work for your course.
Student-centered courses focus on the learner rather than the teacher. Student-centered teaching is based on the constructivist model in which students construct rather than receive or assimilate knowledge.
In "The Virtual Classroom: Learning Without Limits Via Computer Networks," Roxanne Star Hiltz describes the student-centered constructivist model of teaching:
Constructivists believe that for higher levels of cognition to occur, students must build their own knowledge through activities that engage them in active learning. Effective learning happens when students take stock of what they already know and then move beyond it.
In most cases, if students have actually constructed their own framework or schema by experimenting, they are more likely to retain the facts learned about it.
Example: Eleven facts about a banana
If we had never seen or tasted a banana we may have a hard time understanding, remembering, or caring about these banana facts. After one bite of ripe, unripe, or overripe bananas, the student will recall these eleven facts and more, probably for a lifetime.
So, once we have constructed our own knowledge about something, we create a schema or scaffolding on which to place the new information. By tasting the banana we are able to assimilate more information about it. For example, once you have tasted the banana you can understand and remember more information about it, via teacher-centered techniques like lectures, text, videos, graphics, etc. By tasting the banana and experiencing it firsthand you create a schema that helps you store and recall a large amount of new data relating to the banana. Cognitive psychologists believe that the more solid and diverse schemas a person has, the easier it is to process and assimilate new ideas, concepts, and facts.