I have always considered myself to be an advocate for constructivism and inquiry-based teaching methods. My own personal teaching philosophy from my online portfolio states:

“I strive to express my opinions to allow children to feel free and open to express their own opinions and questions. One way in which I try to create a classroom of equity and tolerance is by having aspects of an inquiry based curriculum that allows children to develop the skills they need to be critical of culture and to form a more equitable environment. Children learn abilities such as critiquing, controversial debating, developing deeper understanding of knowledge and self-empowerment.”

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Constructivist teaching has its criticisms since it deviates from formal teaching methods where the teacher is giving the children information to absorb. Rather, the children take the leading role in learning and “construct” their own knowledge through teacher guidance. Constructivist educators, “…are encouraged to make learning as ‘active’ as possible. Students do things in the classrooms, Pelech proposes: things other than simply listen, copy notes and drill.”(Taber, K.S., 2011).

An article by Taber shares how constructivist teaching methods are beneficial to children. “the purpose of constructivist teaching, or simply good teaching, is to find effective ways to help learners acquire the skills and knowledge set out in the curriculum in efficient ways. Efficient here meaning, in part, much quicker than if they were left to their own devices; but also in ways that preserve or improve the learner’s attitude to both learning and the subject matter.” (Taber, K.S., 2011)

Although constructivism will always be a focus for myself, there has been a rise recently in a new movement called connectivism. Connectivism has direct links to constructivism and values the child as an independent learner in the social environment of the classroom.

“Connectivist learning environments are seen as: • open to all perspectives; • encouraging diversity of viewpoints; • allowing individual autonomy to learners to contribute according to their own knowledge, values, and decisions; and • furthering interactive knowledge production” (Thota, N., 2015, p.88).

Tinkering

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Now that I have talked about philosophies of teaching, lets see how it can be applied within the classroom. A method called “Tinkering” has become popular as way for children to problem solve, collaborate and create. I was even able to take part in a tinkering lab in one of my classes and with my group members worked to create a functioning marble run!

Tinkering pulls in the concepts of inquiry based learning and connectivism to get children thinking about big ideas. From my marble run, I was able to pull in aspects of physics, gravity, and friction.

Here are some ways in which you can encourage tinkering experiences:

Tinker Trays

Tinkering books 

Ted Talk on “fooling around” and “tinkering”

So encourage tinkering in the classroom or at home! You do even need to have specific supplies, part of the experience is using the resources that are available and making something wonderful out of it!

References

Taber, K. S. (2011). Guiding the practice of constructivist teaching. Teacher Development, 15(1), 117-122. doi:10.1080/13664530.2011.555229

Thota, N. (2015). Connectivism and the use of Technology/Media in collaborative teaching and learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2015(142), 81-96. doi:10.1002/tl.20131

(all photographs used come from Pixabay a non-copyright, free image user)

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