It’s now the Fall 2015 semester, and I’m now two courses away from completing my master’s degree! One of these courses is CECS 5510, Technology-Based Learning Environments, and this week’s assignment is to read and reflect on three articles: an instructor-assigned article, a self-selected article, and a peer-selected article.
The instructor-assigned article is “Problem-based learning: An instructional model and its constructivist framework” by John R. Savery and Thomas M. Duffy. It characterizes constructivism by outlining three primary propositions (“Understanding is in our interactions with the environment;” “Cognitive conflict or puzzlement is the stimulus for learning and determines the organization and nature of what is learned;” “Knowledge evolves through social negotiation and through the evaluation of the viability of individual understandings” [Savery & Duffy, 2001, p.3-4]). It then outlines eight instructional principles associated with constructivism and explains how the problem-based learning model successfully applies the instructional principles.
For the self-selected article, I chose “Online learning: Constructivism and conversation as an approach to learning” by Ken Allen. In it, he discusses how Talk 2 Learn, an online community that facilitates conversation, can support constructivism and Wenger and Vygotsky’s cognitive interactionist philosophy. He emphasizes “that before adopting any new educational technology we should first clarify the pedagogical basis on which we wish to proceed” (Allen, 2005, p. 254). The article reaffirms the advantages to a constructivist approach in teaching and learning. According to it, “collaborative learning, authentic tasks, reflection and dialogue, and the promotion of identities and learning communities” enables learners “to solve problems they are immediately facing and places an emphasis on everyday knowledge” (Allen, 2005, p. 254).
For the peer-selected article, I chose the article selected by my classmate Keri: “Understanding the ways in which design features of educational websites impact upon student learning outcomes in blended learning environments.” This article outlines the results of a study on the instructional design features of websites used in blended courses. The study found that “implementation ought to include features in which students engage in learning activities or discussions of content through the website” and that “functions which just present information do not seem to impact upon learning outcomes to any great extent” (Kember, McNaught, Chong, Lam, & Cheng, 2010, p. 1191).
All three articles support a constructivist approach in instructional design. This motivates me to further investigate how constructivism can be effectively applied to the course I will be developing this semester. In order for students to want to complete this course (or any other course I design), they will need to see how it will help them in the real world.
Savery and Duffy (2001) state that “learning must have a purpose beyond ‘It is assigned.’ We learn in order to be able to function more effectively in our world” (p. 5). This statement made me think about the majority of my learning experiences in K-12. I completed all of those assignments simply because they were assigned, without really thinking about how those tasks would help me in the real world, and I think this was largely because little to no emphasis was placed on how those tasks would help me in the real world. I think about many of classmates who hated classes like English. They could not see the point of reading and analyzing The Grapes of Wrath, for example, and, therefore, did not invest the time to study it. But if you really think about it, reading and textual analysis are essential skills in life. You must be able to read and interpret the directions on a tax return form. You must be able to read between the lines and understand what the terms in a job offer letter really mean. You must be able to read people, and figure out if they are really as trustworthy as they seem. If we can help our K-12 learners see the usefulness of what is taught in Reading and English Language Arts, then they will put forth more time and effort in mastering the skills, and we will begin seeing stronger readers and writers in our workforce and a more productive society. As a result, I think I will attempt to create such a course this semester. I’m thinking a ninth grade course on Fahrenheit 451. I’ll keep you posted!
Allen, K. (2005). Online learning: Constructivism and conversation as an approach to learning. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 42(3), 247-256.
Kember, D., McNaught, C., Chong, F.C.Y., Lam, P., & Cheng, K.F. (2010). Understanding the ways in which design features of educational websites impact upon student learning outcomes in blended learning environments. Computers & Education, 55(3), 1183-1192.
Savery, J.R., & Duffy, T.M. (2001). Problem based learning: An instructional model and its constructivist framework. Indiana University: CRLT Technical Report No. 16-01.