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Traditional ideas and models of teaching and learning are not always working well forteachers and learners. One of the first things a teacher must do when considering how to teachstudents is to keep conscious that each student does learn in different way. The researcherson this field believe that the best way to learn is by making students construct their ownknowledge instead of having someone construct it for them. This is the foundation ofthe Constructivist Learning Theory, which offers an alternative to traditional learning andteaching structures. But it is not so easy to the educators to translate constructivisttheory into effective practice. These difficulties are based in the constructivism itself. Thispaper is attempt at defining the nature of the constructivist theory and describing itscharacteristics related to the role of the teacher and the students in the constructivistclassroom.
Wilson (1996) defines constructivist learning environments as "a place where learners maywork together and support each other as they use a variety of tools and information resourceson the guided pursuit of learning goals and problem - solving activities"( Wilson 5). Heconcentrates his attention to the key components of typical learning environments. DeVriesand Zan insist that constructivist learning and teaching involves more than activities, materialsand classroom organization. They describe the atmosphere in the classroom as "network ofinterpersonal relations that make up a child's experience of school" (DeVries and Zan 22),which supports students development. From this ideas could be found that the classroom islearner- centered and the focus is on the culture, experiences and knowledge that studentsbring into it.
The role of the children in the constructivist classroom is very important. They constructnew understandings based on what they already know. They perceive this room as their ownclassroom. Students construct their physical environment, participate in its arrangement andsupport it with their own ideas. The children design the space, the materials they use areaimed to the purposes of the lesson. These materials are connected with the world aroundthem and also with their interests. They could include primary sources and manipulativematerials. Their individual and collective works are very often a part from the interior. Theylearn by the experimentation and by their own experience and not by preliminaryexplanations, which leads to making own discoveries and conclusions. Class and individualprojects add to their decision-making opportunities. The flexibility of the class schedule andthe long blocks of uninterrupted time allow the appearance of spontaneity and interactions ofthe students. Students` responsibility and engagement in the activities rises and they have theopportunity to participate in decisions regarding management and curriculum. They are alsoresponsible for each other.
"Interaction among classroom participants, teacher- child and child- child are anothercharacteristic of constructivist classroom." ( Rainer, Guyton and Bowen 124). This quotationshows that the student are not the only participants in the constructivist classroom. Theimportance of the teacher shouldn't be underestimated. He has to encourage children to helpeach other with the tasks, with the problems and also in difficult moments. In such momentsstudents could practice their skills. Teacher and children together create a community spacebased on "classroom promises" for interactions. In this circumstances children could shareideas, solve problems and make decisions how and when to engage in their work. Teacherencourages students working in small groups, where curriculum is child-initiated. Their voiceis respectful and they acknowledge the ideas of the group. Important in the constructivistclassroom is the purposeful talking between the participants. Teachers role is interactive,rooted in negotiation. They have to encourage and extend children's thinking and attend todetails. Important is also to provoke communication acts, which are integral components ofthe classroom. They also stimulate responsible behavior and respectful relationships betweenthe participants. Teacher and students "share ownership and responsibility in behavior,learning and classroom environment." (Rainer, Guyton and Bowen 16) . Instructors alsohave to provide the children for authentic resources, which to stimulate students` interest.That is very important because lack of interest is generally the number one reason thatstudents give for not learning. By creating classroom environments that encouragemanipulating new ideas, like technology- based demonstration and illustration, the teachercould stimulate children's current interests. Technology provides more resources for studentuse in problem solving thinking and reflection. Teachers can structure activities so that thecomputers encourage student collaboration.
"Constructivism promotes social and communication skills by creating a classroomenvironment that emphasizes collaboration and exchange of ideas. Students must learn how toarticulate their ideas clearly as well as to collaborate on tasks effectively by sharing in groupprojects. Students must therefore exchange ideas and so must learn to "negotiate" with othersand to evaluate their contributions in a socially acceptable manner. This is essential to successin the real world, since they will always be exposed to a variety of experiences in which theywill have to cooperate and navigate among the ideas of others."( Thirteen Ed Online Team,Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning, www.thirteen.org., 01.11.2010).According to the constructivist theory learning is much more effective when children areactively involved in the curriculum. Constructivism develops communication and social skillsand encourages alternative methods of assessment. Its main goal is helping students transferskills to the real world but this is a real challenge for teachers and learners. It requiresappreciable reconstructing of class room practices and habits, which is not easily achievableaim. But teaching students how and what to learn is the path to fuller and more relevantunderstanding of life's important lessons.