My degree was Psychology with Child Studies and during it I learnt a lot of different theories of learning one of which was Constructivism and Social Constructivism. This is not something that can work in every lesson for my subject, Maths however I have found some great opportunities to use it and I am going to explain how this is done.
First a bit of background information, Constructivism is the theory that rather than the learning of knowledge being teacher lead we actually use our own previous knowledge and build on it to enable learning to take place. Social Constructivism is building on previous knowledge with a group so you are discovering and learning together. The teacher therefore facilitates the discussions so that students are finding the information themselves then applying it to see if it confirms what they originally thought.
Trying it in the classroom
So that is the basic theory but how can it work in your classroom and when can you use it? I have tried it for two different topics so far and have found that it worked really well with some classes. I will tell you what I did in case you want to give it a go later in the post. I found that for higher sets this worked really well but there can be some limitations depending on the students that you have in your class. In one of my lower year 11 sets they really struggle with behaviour if they are expected to do something that is different from the normal routine and as a result we had to bring it back quickly to a teacher lead lesson. It is also very difficult for students who have difficulties with social interactions so it is important to choose the class you try it with first carefully, I would go with higher ability students and ensure that it is well planned to lead the discussion as clearly as possible
When I tried this the first time we were looking at laws of indices which can be quite a boring topic to teach as you are just learning the rules and they need to be remembered. I set up stations in four corners, each place had a different rule and some examples to work through. I put the students into groups of 4 and got 1 person from each group to go to each area where they had to work with the others there to discover their rule. After 10 minutes they then went back to their team to share what they had learnt and to put the rules together with the rest of the group. I then had a relay activity with a prize for the fastest team, they could only move onto the next answer if the first was correct so they had to try out what they thought the rules were and work together to gain further knowledge of any that they were unsure of.
The second lesson I tried this with was a Pythagoras, this was more of an independent task. I gave the class homework to research Pythagoras. I didn't specify what I wanted to know or give them clues before. When they came back in I started the discussion asking what they had found, asking questions round the room until we obtained all the information. I didn't give any of the theory but I lead the questioning carefully until they had got the theory correct together.
What did you do?
Have you tried any similar lessons? How did they go? I am finding it quite difficult to apply this theory in Maths and for lower ability groups but I would be really interested to see how that has gone in your lessons and which subjects you used it for.
I am a Maths teacher working in the UK. My blog started in February 2018 and I am using it to share ideas to help you in the classroom and to improve your work life balance. I also have some free course and resource along with my new tutoring agency.