" the task for the teacher (teaching science) is to find ways of helping children transform their own beliefs into ideas and explanations more consonant with the explanations accepted by conventional science." McGuigan and shilling p 26 The constructivist approach to teaching advocates that the teaching stems from the child's own beliefs and ideas. " Constructivist learning - That teachers should take pupils ideas seriously so that changes made in them make sense to the pupils and the new ideas are owned by them. (The teaching of science in primary schools, Wayne Harlen, 1996, second edition, page 17). Generally it is without complexity for a teacher to find out the child's own ideas. However, the next step which is the finding out where to take the idea and how to ensure that it is science based is rather more intricate.
This is where strategies and methods can be utilised to aid this difficulty. So, how does one incorporate constructivist teaching into the classroom. Watson and Bentley (1991) identified five tenets that act as a response to the above question, they are as follows. Commencing learning in response to stage of the learner, Progression through a process of orientation, elicitation, restructuring and application, thirdly, the designing of bridges in order to facilitate taking the child to the desired point, the induction of active learning, and finally, the ability a teacher has to act as a facilitator. I shall now discuss these factors further in more detail, to begin I will look at the first point made.
" Commencing learning in response to the stage of the learner." This is a very prevalent method of teaching concerning constructivism, it simply allows the teacher to concentrate on the individuals own experiences giving the teacher the opportunity to continue the teaching from this stage. This method is said to facilitate the understanding of new material. For example, a topic such as sound can be easily generalised to child's already known ideas and experiences and then simply transferred to another more suitable context, one which the teacher wishes to teach or discuss. The second aspect, which states that progression through orientation, elicitation, restructuring and application can help to introduce constructivism into the classroom is centred around providing the right ambiance in order to support the child's ideas, thoughts and feelings towards any given topic.
One should encourage the learner as well as providing challenging experiences. A method in which this can be carried out, is to recreate a child's own experience of the topic by using props etc to prompt the child to express their ideas. Thirdly, I will discuss the aspect of designing bridges to take the learner to the desired point. It is essential that the teacher has the ability to morph a child's idea into a appropriate and useful point. "The task of the teacher is to know the pupils well enough so that instructional steps are strong and help transport ideas for particular individuals." Without this competence constructivism in the classroom ceases to exist. The fourth aspect involves incorporating active learning in order to promote constructivism, active learning can take place in the techniques of group work, and collaborative learning.
Thus enabling teaching to be interactive and involving the whole classroom. The fifth tenet is the ability for a teacher to act as a facilitator within the classroom. It can be difficult for a child to express their own ideas and experiences in a classroom environment. The process of "circle time" is a new and flourishing method of allowing children to hold a discussion without the fear of ridicule, therefore this is a example of how the teacher can act as an facilitator, it is also effective because it can be applied across the curriculum in a variety of topics and subjects.
For example if a certain science topic is proving to be to hard to grasp, circle time can prove to be an effective method in which the children can convey their problems and misconceptions concerning the desired topic. This point is largely in correspondence with management of the classroom. Another factor with reference to the induction of constructivism is the ability of questioning techniques. Certain methods of questioning can prompt a child.
The idea is to encourage pupils to explore their own ideas rather than the ideas dictated to them. To conclude, the most obvious aspect of constructivism has to be the positive element that the ideas originate from the children, therefore, there is the opportunity "to use the information about pupils ideas in order to note what they already know and so to teach them something new, or to note what wrong ideas they have in order to correct them or conflict them" (The teaching of Science in Primary schools, Wayne Harlen, 1996, second edition, page 51). Evidence provided by the SPACE project cycle of teaching steps depicts that constructivism is very effective as the framework is " Loose enough not to become a restricting routine" (The teaching of Science in Primary schools, Wayne Harlen, 1996, second edition, page 49). However, it is evident that the constructivist approach does have underlying complex problems, for example, it is obligatory for the child to want to converse their ideas, as well as the difficult predicament of the teacher having the ability to transform the ideas into a suitable context.