Constructivist Teaching and Learning Models

Constructivism is an approach to teaching and learning based on the premise that cognition (learning) is the result of "mental construction." In other words, students learn by fitting new information together with what they already know. Constructivists believe that learning is affected by the context in which an idea is taught as well as by students' beliefs and attitudes.

Constructivist teaching is based on recent research about the human brain and what is known about how learning occurs. Caine and Caine (1991) suggest that brain-compatible teaching is based on 12 principles:

  1. "The brain is a parallel processor" (p. 80). It simultaneously processes many different types of information, including thoughts, emotions, and cultural knowledge. Effective teaching employs a variety of learning strategies.

  2. "Learning engages the entire physiology" (p. 80). Teachers can't address just the intellect.

  3. "The search for meaning is innate" (p. 81). Effective teaching recognizes that meaning is personal and unique, and that students' understandings are based on their own unique experiences.

  4. "The search for meaning occurs through 'patterning' " (p. 81). Effective teaching connects isolated ideas and information with global concepts and themes.

  5. "Emotions are critical to patterning" (p. 82). Learning is influenced by emotions, feelings, and attitudes.

  6. "The brain processes parts and wholes simultaneously" (p. 83). People have difficulty learning when either parts or wholes are overlooked.

  7. "Learning involves both focused attention and peripheral perception" (p. 83). Learning is influenced by the environment, culture, and climate.

  8. "Learning always involves conscious and unconscious processes" (p. 84). Students need time to process 'how' as well as 'what' they've learned.

  9. "We have at least two different types of memory: a spatial memory system, and a set of systems for rote learning" (p. 85). Teaching that heavily emphasizes rote learning does not promote spatial, experienced learning and can inhibit understanding.

  10. "We understand and remember best when facts and skills are embedded in natural, spatial memory" (p. 86). Experiential learning is most effective.

  11. "Learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat" (p. 86). The classroom climate should be challenging but not threatening to students.

  12. "Each brain is unique" (p. 87). Teaching must be multifaceted to allow students to express preferences.

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