Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Constructionist/ivist theories and Instructional Strategies

Constructionist and constructivist theories are ones that affect us in our everyday classrooms.  The constructivist approach is one that is a theory of knowledge stating that each individual actively constructs his/her own meaning (Laureate Education Inc. 2011).  The constructionist approach is a theory of learning that states people learn best when they build external artifacts or something they can share with others (Laureate Education Inc. 2011).  With either theory, implementing them in the classroom will be affected by the instructional strategy that is chosen.  Ultimately the instructional strategy will be dependent on the students you have in class.  So my theory is that the students you have will have the control over what instructional strategy you chose which will affect whether you chose to go with the constructionist or constructivist theory.

Reviewing the resources for this week, I have gained some great knowledge.  In the chapter on generating and testing hypotheses, they give us six tasks we could use in our classrooms to help students generate and test hypotheses (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn and Malenoski, 2007). After looking through them I feel the most suited to fit in my classroom would be problem solving.  I have many problem solving activities in my classroom in which I challenge my students to get them thinking about real world issues.  The more I can relate the problem solving activities to real world problems the better off the students will be when they begin there life after graduation. 

The constructionist theory talks about how students need to create artifacts to learn best (Laureate Education Inc. 2011).  I feel that using a problem solving approach is best suited to meet the expectations of a constructionist.  I have my students solve many challenges in my classroom.  Some involve individuals and some are collaborative efforts. 

Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn and Malenoski (2007) relay to us that we should make sure students can explain their hypotheses and conclusions.  I find this to be very pertinent because some of the students I have will rush to find an answer and then be ok with what happens afterward.  In the problem solving challenges I give my students, they must design certain contraptions and make sure they are going to work before putting all the effort in to constructing them.  Once they have tested there hypotheses and figured out if it will possibly succeed, then they can begin creating there artifact.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program seven: Constructionist and constructivist learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cognitivism in Practice

The instructional strategies presented to us in the readings are very relevant in our classrooms on a daily basis.  We may not use of all the ideas presented about the strategies however we do use these strategies and have been successful with students.  These strategies should be used in combination with the cognitive learning theory because to get students to learn and understand different topics or information then we need to reach there short and long term memory and know how to develop those.

Cueing and Questioning is a great way to get students involved in the learning.  When we provide cues and questions, students have a clearer sense of what they are going to learn (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007).  One of the first things we need to accomplish is to get the students on the same page and have them know what we are doing.  To aid the learning process, we should look for opportunities to activate students’ background knowledge, thereby providing a direction for exploration (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007).  By getting the students thinking about background knowledge and other ideas to get them into the topic, we are creating networks in their brain in which they will be able to retain the information better and when they need to recall the information for a test, they will have a variety of items they can think of which will lead them to the different networks they have developed.  When I begin a lesson in my introduction to technology class or even construction class, I get the students thinking by asking them about what tools they have used or seen used.  I then take it a step further and have them write it down so that I can have the information on file and can refer to it when creating my lessons.

Throughout my lessons I give cues to help students understand where we have been, where we are and where we are headed with the lesson.  I question them throughout the entire lesson to check for understanding and to make sure they are constantly thinking about what we are doing.

Summarizing is a great tool for students to use and even for teachers to use.  This strategy provides students with a process to apply as they summarize and gives them a structure to guide them when attempting what can otherwise be a confusing task (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007).  Many students have trouble retaining information that they have just read, which means they will have to read it over and over to really understand what is being said or what is meant.  I, myself use summarization when I read because I have trouble remembering what I just read.  As our students start to summarize information they begin to create networks in the brain, which store the information.  They when the information is reiterated in class and connected to real life situations, the students begin to connect the networks in the brain to the information at hand.  They are basically concept mapping in there head.

When I am going through my lessons, information that is not critical for the student to know, I summarize.  This helps me with time constraints and keeps my students engaged in the lesson because I can cover the material much quicker.  Not having to teach to any standardized tests gives me the freedom to go at my own pace and teach what I want to. 

These two strategies presented to us in the reading are very relevant in my classroom and will be for a long time.  Our student’s brains are constantly developing and we need to do everything we can to help them develop the networks to retain the information we present to them.

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Behaviorist Learning Theory with Instructional Strategies

Behaviorist learning theories have been and will be used in the classroom for years.  Using these theories and how in depth someone takes them depends of the instructional strategies used in the classroom.  In my classroom, I use many different instructional strategies because I teach technology and using the same methods over and over get boring for the students.  In turn this may cause them to become behavior problems.   I use mostly a project-based curriculum, therefore my instructional strategies are ones that get the students involved in what I am teaching them.  In the article, “the behaviourist orientation to learning”, James Hartley (1998) talks about for key principles to use when dealing with behaviorist theories (Smith, 1999).  First is that activity is important because learning is better when the learner is active rather than passive (Smith, 1999).  This is so true in my classroom.  I get many behaviorally challenged students in my classes because the guidance counselor has no where else to put them.  I find to have a better connection with these students because they are active in my room using there hands to build things. 

Also Hartley (1998) mentions that learning is helped when objectives are clear (Smith, 1999). When I am going over project and directions in my classroom, I make sure that the students know what the objectives are and what needs to get done.  Being I have been there for four years now, words travels, and I am starting to get students who know what my rules are and know not to break them.

Going through the text, I found that “Reinforcing Effort” seems to be a great strategy.  I find the connection made between the effort put forth in the chart and the grade at  the bottom to be a very real and eye opening way to show students that effort and grades are tied together.  Using that chart not only shows students that there behavior in the classroom effects there grade but it also gives them a small responsibility to be truthful in putting a number on there effort in class and also the responsibility of remembering to fill the chart in.  If a student happens to lie on the chart and ends up with a poor test grade, then it will not be hard to tell that they student is not being truthful.  This activity helps to add evidence that positive reinforcement in the behaviorist learning theories are important in the classroom.

After reading through the text on “Homework and Practice”, some very important ideas jumped out at me.  I have caught myself doing this and I would venture to say most teachers have, I assign homework and then either forget to check it, collect it and forget to grade it or even collect it and not even acknowledge it.  Once sentence that jumped off the page at me was “If homework is assigned, it should be commented on” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, and Malenoski, 2007).  If we are using behaviorist theories and providing positive reinforcement, how do we covey to our students that we “forgot” about the homework when them forgetting to do the homework may result in a punishment!

Another thing that stood out on the page was the fact that a homework policy needs to be established and assignments need to clearly articulate purpose (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, and Malenoski, 2007).  This also aligns with the ideas that Hartley (1998) presented.  He talked about how learning is helped when objectives are clear (Smith, 1999).  When we convey a clear concise message to our students about the assignments we want them to complete, there is no question that they know what to do and should be able to complete the assignment with no issues.

I feel that I have developed many good instructional strategies, which help bring certain aspects of the behaviorist learning theory into my classroom.  I am a big believer in positive reinforcement but also know there is a time and place for punishment.

Smith, K. (1999). The behaviourist orientation to learning. In The encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved from

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.