In the Spring Semester of 2008, I successfully completed an active research project when I was enrolled in James Madison University’s Masters in Education Program. As a graduate student, I learned that constructivism is an inquiry-based teaching method that offers a student-centered learning community where students work collaboratively together to solve real world problems. I became interested in inquiring more about constructivism, so I decided to use it as my topic for my active research project. The question that guided my inquiry project was: How does constructivist teaching impact student academic performance in a middle school classroom? The purpose for the inquiry project was for me to discover if constructivism is an admirable method of instruction to use when teaching middle school students.
As a student teacher, I was assigned to a sixth grade science classroom. All of the students in my classes served as my sample for data collection. I used a variety of methods to collect data such as student journal entries, graded labs and activities, student surveys, interviews, and formative and summative assessments. After analyzing all of the data, I discovered that students were actively engaged and they performed exceptionally well, academically from learning via constructivist teaching. The findings in my active research project are significant because constructivism was found to positively impact student performance in a middle school science class.
After I graduated from James Madison University, I decided to adopt the inquiry-based, constructivist teaching method into my practice with middle school technology students. This is significant because I have proven that teaching with this type of instruction empowers my students to take ownership of their learning by allowing them to explore problems and uncover their own solutions.
Currently, as a CTE teacher, I aim to provide my students with the tools that they will need to become life-long learners and creative problem solvers. For example, I have written curriculum for students in my sixth-grade technology class to use challenge-based learning in order to solve problems. In the Architect’s Challenge Unit that I created, teams of students must design a floor plan of a house that satisfies the needs of an imaginary client. Students will first create a blueprint of a floor plan on graph paper in order to ultimately create virtual 3D model of the floor plan using Google Sketchup. Students work in their groups using the engineering design process in order to solve this problem. This is significant because I act as a facilitator by helping students to formulate a plan or scheme to assist them in creating a product, such as a floor plan. This impacts student learning because students are using their workplace readiness skills in order to solve a problem as a team via inquiry and hands-on exploration. Moreover, students also have to discover how ratios are used to create scale models of buildings and structures as they collaborate together to create a floor plan, which helps to create a real-world STEM connection.
Another example in which I use constructivist teaching to promote student learning is in my seventh-grade Education in Careers Technology course. In this course, I facilitate students in partners as they use inquiry in order to solve problems in STEM related, computer-based modules. These modules are delivered through a combination of hands-on activities and multimedia curriculum where science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are interconnected throughout each module. For example, in the Robots Module, two students learned how to operate, program, and use robots in different environments. Each student learned to manipulate the robot and program it to conduct repeatable tasks. The students learned about each of the sensors and how to program them to control a self directed robot. Ultimately, the students programmed and operated a robot to complete tasks using the sensors as inputs to solve a challenge. This is significant because a goal for this course is for students to become responsible learners and to work cooperatively with others in order to problem solve. This impacts student learning because each module is student directed, giving students control of their own learning experience. Moreover, due to the fact that students work with a partner to complete each module, the experiences they share in common promote positive communication, teamwork, inquiry, learning, and social skills.