Student Centered Learning Environments

While I have had the opportunity to do student teaching a few years ago, I moved away from K12 education because of the inconsistencies between pedagogical approaches taught in the University I attended and what truly happens in the classroom. The teacher preparation program was very constructivist in what they were teaching us (manipulatives for math, project based learning approaches, etcetera), but they did try to help us balance what we had to prove up in our portfolio with what the real expectations were in the classroom. After taking and passing all certifications and doing all of the coursework, I decided to change courses and drop the program because of the fact that I would never have the time to effectively teach in many school districts (especially because some schools in our area have become very scripted teaching).

So to answer this question about which value is more important or should be valued higher than another in the constructivist, or student centered classroom as described in a grounded design principles is to say that it is highly unlikely to take place in many schools in part due to the “feasability of implementing emerging learning environments within traditional classroom environments given their conventional assessment priorities.” (pg. 1) That aside, in a constructivist classroom, I think the highest value should be student’s prior knowledge and everyday experiences. It lays the foundation for the rest of instruction. New understanding cannot be built until prior knowledge has been established and “is assumped to result in more meaningful learning.” (pg. 14) The other values are important and I think equally so.

I think that some students definitely struggle with technology aided scaffolding necessary for higher order thinking. I was chatting with our advanced mathematics faculty member just the other day. She has built a relatively student centered learning environment that is information rich. While her assessments are still relatively behaviorist in approach, she does construct videos to help her students learn the technology tools she uses to demonstrate algebraic, calculus, and statistical concepts in her courses. She is finding this semester that many students just love having the scaffolding just in time for them to learn how to effectively utilize the technology to enhance their learning. Unlike other math instructors at our college, after students complete practice problems, she has them participate in reflective activities about what they learned, how the technology aided in their learning, and what they now know about the concept. These learner centered approaches with the balance of the objectivist-type assessment will be more fully realized when the semester ends as this is the first semester she has implemented these technology scaffolds in her course. While we have a helpdesk to assist students with technology issues, this is one of our few instructors who understands that the helpdesk cannot possibly explain to a student how to manipulate variables using the specific mathematics software used within their courses. In other words, in this seemingly constructivist classroom, the pitfall I see is lack of support when it comes to the technology that can “enable learners to represent their thinking in concrete ways and to visualize and test the consequences of their reasoning.” (pg. 15)

Jonassen, D. H., & Land, S. M. (2000). Theoretical Foundations of Learning Environments. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.

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