Constructivist and Existentialist Education

The Constructivist Classroom and Curriculum

Posted on: March 14, 2012

Classroom

A classroom designed with a constructivist philosophy includes lots of hands-on and visual material that learners can explore and interact with. A sexuality classroom might have anatomical models, graphics showing the relationships between gender and sexual identities, and other informational materials around the room, accessible to learners and available for them to examine at their own pace.

The Montessori method of early childhood education uses a largely constructivist approach. The typical Montessori classroom features a wide variety of materials for hands-on learning, with open space and small tables for learners to work individually with areas that interest them. (Image taken from http://www.foundationhill.com/resources/Montessori+Room+1.JPG)

Under constructivism, it is important that learners have direct access to materials and information, so that they can pursue areas of particular meaning and interest to them, and construct knowledge on their own timetable. Handbooks or computer workstations where students can consider case studies, search through media, or engage in virtual roleplay could also be powerful constructivist tools in the classroom.

Curriculum

In a constructivist curriculum, the educator must make room to ask open-ended questions. This pushes the learners to look at things past their factual sense and be able to think critically about them. In addition, it must incorporate time for students to be able to process, reflect, and build on what they learned. Real world examples are often used for students to be able to inductively grasp concepts.

Usually, constructivist curriculums do not follow the mold of standard curriculums. It is encouraged to build it around the student’s prior knowledge as well as hands on problem solving.

Moreover, the educators should encourage learners to continually reassess what they are learning from the activity and how it is going to apply to their lives. This way the students are not only learning from the activity but they also, “learn how to learn.”

Lesson Plans

Scavenger Hunt: Learners are given instructions and resources to conduct an online “scavenger hunt” and gather information about a specific topic. The lesson plan as written focuses on contraceptive methods, but it could easily be adapted for any subject area. Learners return and share the knowledge they have gathered with their peers. The majority of the activity is self-directed, giving learners the freedom to pursue and gather information on their own rather than passively absorbing it from the teacher.

Anatomy Models (Lesson 3.1 in the linked file): Learners are given materials and references and asked to collaborate in building three-dimensional models of male and female sexual anatomy. This is a hands-on, cooperative approach to teaching anatomy, and lets students develop a close understanding of reproductive and sexual anatomy using their own skills and creativity.

Body Collage: In groups, using magazines with a wide variety of images, learners create collages of attractive people of their own gender. Using the collages and their own lists of body features considered attractive or unattractive in their culture, learners consider overall messages and ideas about attractiveness in their culture. The teacher facilitates discussion and critique of these ideas based on the material that students developed.

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