Monday, December 20, 2010

Constructivist and Traditional Classrooms: How does technology fit in?

Many of us were taught (at least in elementary and secondary school) in a traditional classroom.  In some college and in most graduate level classes, I was taught in a more constructivist classroom.  With the advances in technology in education, it appears that the constructivist classroom is becoming more normative in the earlier school years.

This is not to say that a traditional approach is not beneficial to some students.  What I think is happening is that the growing acceptance of the social nature of education is making a strong case for renewed professional development in the differences between constructivist and traditional classrooms.

I am a firm believer in working from your strengths while addressing your professional challenges.  In terms of whether or not your class is constructivist or traditional (or a hybrid), I have found the following checklist useful in helping to make that determination.

I would also point out that technology is not expressly mentioned in this checklist, but I wonder where it may fit into each side of the chart.

Your thoughts about the chart and the issue of technology’s influence on it are welcomed.



  • Curriculum is presented whole to part with emphasis on big concepts.
  • Curriculum is presented part to whole with emphasis on basic skills.
  • Pursuit of student questions is highly valued.
  • Strict adherence to fixed curriculum is highly valued.
  • Curricular activities rely heavily on primary sources of data and manipulative materials.
  • Curricular activities rely heavily on textbooks and workbooks.
  • Students are viewed as thinkers with emerging theories about the world.
  • Students are viewed as “blank slates” onto which information is etched by the teacher.
  • Teachers generally behave in an interactive manner, mediating the environment for students.
  • Teachers generally behave in a didactic manner, disseminating information to students.
  • Teachers seek the students’ points of view in order to understand students’ present conceptions for use in subsequent lessons.
  • Teachers seek the correct answer to validate student learning.
  • Assessment of student learning is interwoven with teaching and occurs through teacher observations of students at work and through student exhibitions and portfolios.
  • Assessment of student learning is viewed as separate from teaching and occurs almost entirely through testing.
  • Students primarily work in groups.
  • Students primarily work alone.
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