Assessment in a Constructivist Classroom

Brooks and Brooks (1993) describe what assessment in a constructivist classroom looks like: Rather than saying "No" when a student does not give the exact answer being sought, the constructivist teacher attempts to understand the student's current thinking about the topic. Through nonjudgmental questioning, the teacher leads the student to construct new understanding and acquire new skills. Constructivists believe that assessment should be used as a tool to enhance both the student's learning and the teacher's understanding of the student's current understanding. It should not be used as an accountability tool that makes some students feel good about themselves and causes others to give up. Below is a list of the important principles that guide the work of a constructivist teacher:

  1. Constructivist teachers encourage and accept student autonomy and initiative.

  2. Constructivist teachers use raw data and primary sources along with manipulative, interactive, and physical materials.

  3. Constructivist teachers use cognitive terminology such as "classify," "analyze," "predict," and "create" when framing tasks.

  4. Constructivist teachers allow student responses to drive lessons, shift instructional strategies, and alter content.

  5. Constructivist teachers inquire about students' understandings of concepts before sharing their own understandings of those concepts.

  6. Constructivist teachers encourage students to engage in dialogue both with the teacher and with one another.

  7. Constructivist teachers encourage student inquiry by asking thoughtful, open-ended questions and encouraging students to ask questions of each other.

  8. Constructivist teachers seek elaboration of students' initial responses.

  9. Constructivist teachers engage students in experiences that might engender contradictions to their initial hypotheses and then encourage discussion.

  10. Constructivist teachers allow a waiting time after posing questions.

  11. Constructivist teachers provide time for students to construct relationships and create metaphors.

  12. Constructivist teachers nurture students' natural curiosity through frequent use of the learning cycle model (Brooks & Brooks, 1993).
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