Monday, April 14, 2008

Student Centered Pedagogies - Part 1

It has come to my attention that while I have (through this blog, district workshops, informal discussions, and conference presentations) done well at identifying a need for a more student driven approach to teaching, an approach I have long felt is met through constructivist and connectivist teaching methods. I have also done well at describing and introducing the tools that make these kinds of learning environments effective with technology. However, what has been lacking is concrete examples or an explicit explanation of what these two pedagogical approaches really mean. I plan on devoting the next few blogposts to exploring this topic and attempt to provide concrete examples of how these theories can be applied in a classroom.

I have and will continue to argue that our traditional school systems are not adequately set up for ideal student-centered learning. This goes beyond teaching methods and plays itself out in nearly all aspects of how we have organized schools. The bell schedule segments learning into time slots that are not necessarily optimized for learning and fail to recognize that the topic of the class goes on 24/7. Our system of reporting progress through grades and standardized test scores and our use of those final marks as a commodity to be traded for future advancement, success, or acclaim reduce what is naturally intrinsically motivating and forces it to become an extrinsic chore. Students no longer learn because they want to know things, they learn because they have to. More so, grades and test scores tend to put a lid on things telling students that the learning has stopped, that the issue is over, that there is no need to revisit topics. The calendar crams learning into nine months without much break causing fatigue for both teachers and students in the late winter and loss of practice in the summer months.

I feel this video illustrates why there is a need to look at learner-centered approaches to teaching:

I could argue these points for many pages but I would prefer these next few blogposts have a much more local effect. In those posts I will attempt to show how learning theories that support the student-centered approach can be utilized in the structured schedule, calendar, and grade reporting structure of a traditional school setting.

The following videos and web resources describe/explain the learning theories I will be building on in the next few blog posts:


Links to sites on constructivism

Project Based Learning (PBL):

Challenge 2000: Project Based Learning & Multimedia Website
PBL Research Summary: Studies Validate Project-Based Learning
The Mindset of Project-Based Learning

Understanding By Design (Backwards Design):

ASCD: Understanding by Design Resources
Understanding by Design
Wiggins & McTighe: A Brief Introduction

Maintaining Classroom Discipline by using Democratic Methods:


Connectivism: Learning as Network-Creation
By George Siemens

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