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Ernesto Villasenor

Social Justice Fellow, LA County Education Foundation (LACEF)

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Constructivist Learning and Teaching: A possible way of addressing education disparities?

Constructivist learning and teaching imply the notion and suggest that learning is most effective when the individual is actively engaged in the learning process rather than being in a passive environment, the latter being the case in most learning environments.

There has been a surge in the US in terms of implementing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education initiatives, with the primary focus of preparing our students for the future's economic and societal developments, which will revolve primarily around science and technology.

As an individual that has acquired much information and experience within the STEM fields through the accessibility of programs that encourage constructivist learning and teaching methods, do you believe that such methods of learning could reduce education disparities throughout the entire board, specifically focusing on the K-12 public education?

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    Sep 3 2012: There certainly is optimism that constructivist practice will reduce disparities in achievement, but the merit of the approach if it is implemented well rests, I think, more on its being the best way for almost any child to learn.
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      Sep 3 2012: Of course, and constructivist learning is not necessarily the only approach to see in terms of addressing education disparities.

      Constructivist learning works best for the more hands-on subjects (science and math are great examples), but might not necessarily function accordingly in other subjects.

      One of the main arguments that I am trying to make is that basing an entire education system on passive learning is definitely not the best and efficient way in terms of preparing our students for a future that we ourselves cannot predict.
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        Sep 3 2012: But where that you know of is this still happening? Is it all still direct instruction in the LA county schools?

        I am curious about this, as the big school districts with which I am familiar all have an inquiry focus for math and science. I know there has been a conservative backlash demanding a return to the traditional direct instruction or lecture, whether delivered by humans or video.
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          Sep 4 2012: Oh yeah, especially in some of the independent school districts within LA County. As a product of public education coming out of Compton, CA, I can vouch that approximately 80% of my K-12 education consisted of primarily direct instruction, and the constructivist/hands-on learning really did not come out of majority of my courses other than the AP courses that I took during my high school years, in addition to the afterschool programs that I was a part of.

          Even if you implement and redefine the way education is taught in the inner city and in especially large school districts, one of the factors that still come about our way is the content standards that the schools have to abide to at the state level. Content standards provide a sense of direction in terms of teaching the necessities, but when it comes to solely basing our education on content standards where the students are going to get tested on.....that's a different issue and pickle to deal with.

          Anyhow, coming back on to the flaws of direct instruction: direct instruction can function for various subjects, such as history and English, but others require a more hands-on, experience-filled methods.
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        Sep 4 2012: In English and history, there must be pedagogical merit in actual engagement with text.

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