Educational Approach in Constructivism and Behaviorism
Sep 16, 2017 Teaching Methodology 5667 Views
Educational practices are incredibly diverse not only around the world, but even within a given school. What some might view as the best approach to educating children, others might see as a mediocre attempt to do so.
The video "Pre-school in Three Different Cultures" illustrates this diversity in educational styles to the viewer. The documentary consists of the filming of three different pre-schools in different countries during the span of a normal day. The summaries of the day's activities given in the video for each of the pre-schools let the viewer analyze both the social and academic aspects of the children's experience throughout the day. The pre-schools included in the video are Komatsudani from Japan, Dong-feng from China, and St.Timothy from the U.S. (Hawaii). The following paper will shed light on what is known as constructivism and behaviorism, and describe which one of the schools falls under each category.
Constructivism is the theory that views children as little individual scientists. When following the theory of constructivism, students are allowed to explore their environment, interact with it, and learn from it. The constructivist teacher acts as a support pillar for students to lean on when they are in need, not the leader that everyone must follow. Constructivism also sees differences amongst the children and the things they learn from their interactions; not everyone learns the same things at the same rate or with the same ease.
After watching the video, the school that seems to have the most constructivist approach is St.Timothy. When it came time for the students to partake on an activity, the teacher gave them the opportunity to choose the activity they preferred instead of assigning them one or making the whole class do the same thing. This approach allows the students to participate on an activity that they find stimulating, which tends to let students learn much more than an activity that they find boring. It is also worth mentioning that when the students chose an activity by pointing at the representative objects the teacher would let the student know that she wanted them to indicate it by using spoken language. The teacher used a constructivist approach when doing this since she did not guide the student on how to form the sentence, but rather let them construct their own sentences and correcting them if necessary.
One of the activities, and the teacher's comment regarding the activity, shows the constructivist ideal beyond any other thing seen in the video. The activity being referred to is the block building activity, during which the students are allowed to rearrange the blocks in any way he choose to. This is a very different approach to the one used in one of the other schools in which students are given specific guidelines to follow when using the blocks. When asked about the difference in approaches, the teacher in St.Timothy responded that she thought their approach was better because when you let children build their own structures they will sometimes come up with things that the teacher would never even think of. This is a great example of the idea that children are like little scientists with very different approaches to learning through their environment.
Another aspect in which St.Timothy's approaches were very constructivists was behavior and discipline. There is an instance during the day during which a student refuses to clean up the materials even after the teacher has asked him to do so directly. Instead of ordering the student to pick up the materials by using her authority like many teachers tend to do, the teacher talks to him at an equal level. She doesn't just boss him into putting the things away, but rather tries to make the student think of the consequences that might come about from not picking up the materials. She explains to the student that if the materials are not picked up some of his fellow students might end up injured. After he refuses to comply once again, the teacher gives him two choices. The student has to choose between spending time alone or picking up the materials. It does not take more than a minute before the student decides to comply.
Some people might dispute that the Japanese approach regarding behavior and discipline at Komatsudani is more constructivists because it has less teacher involvement, but the teacher's approach seems to be more negligence than constructivism. The principal of the school is quoted saying that it is normal and even necessary for boys to fight because it is the way that they learn how to resolve problems that might arise later in life. The statement might have some truth to it, but as his own statement says, the children are learning and therefore don't have the required skills to resolve these problems yet. As a teacher, one can let them try to solve the problem by themselves but always keeping very close surveillance. It is not a good approach to simply ignore the situation or tell a child "why don't you do something about it?", like one of the teachers at Komatsudani was quoted saying when told about another child's misbehavior.
Behaviorism is the theory that states that people can be taught through the use of reward and/or punishment. The theory is also seen as the more repetitive of the two theories because it often involves the use of drill-and-practice as the main form of instruction. In behaviorism the teacher is the main focus of the class and all the students must often follow the directions exactly as they are given.
The school that most resembles the ideals of the behaviorist theory in the video was Dong-feng from China. One of the first examples of this is when the 4:2:1 phenomenon is explained. The 4:2:1 phenomenon occurs due to the attempts of lowering China's population. According to the school officials, the problem is that now more than ever a lot of children are single children that are showered with attention from two parents and four grandparents. Behaviorism is shown when the school staff claims that they must correct the mistakes done by the parents and grandparents regarding the children's behavior due to excessive attention and spoiling.
Another instance in which the school's behaviorist approach was obvious was the bathroom usage. The school's bathroom usage approach was weird to say the least, all students were to go to the bathroom at the same time and in the same place. The teachers claimed that if a student really needed to use the facilities he or she was allowed to go at another time than the one scheduled, but that it was good for students to become familiar with the concept of scheduling and should try their best to become accustomed to the time guidelines.
The school's behaviorist approach was also evident during formal instruction and before meals. Before every meal, the students must always participate in giving thanks for their food by reciting a chant in unison that goes something like "this food sure smells good, I bet it's delicious, I am so thankful for my dad and mom". The repetition of this chant serves as a way to reinforce the idea that the students should be thankful for their parents and whatever their parents were able to give them as a meal.
When it comes to formal instruction their approach is very behaviorist and completely different from the approach taken by St.Timothy. In Dong-feng the students are given specific instructions on how to work with the wooden blocks and must set up the materials in a certain way before they are even allowed to start. Once they start building their wooden structures, they must follow the guidelines, and will not be given any positive reinforcement if they deviate from them by doing something different or creative. Instead of rewarding creativity like the staff in St.Timothy, the staff at Dong-feng seems to only care about the students' ability to follow directions.
When it comes to educating and teaching students with cultural and linguistic diversity, one must always keep the lessons interesting and original. As a future teacher, my area of expertise will most probably be math. My lessons will contain as many visual components as possible and as much student participation as the lesson allows. I will motivate the students to take risks by making a constructivism-behaviorism-constructivism sandwich. The students will be given a task to complete, which they don't yet have the skills for. During this time the students will be encouraged to brainstorm ideas on how the task might be completed; both right and wrong approaches will be celebrated as achievements, the important thing is that they are willing to try new things. Once the brainstorming period is done, I will instruct them on how the task is most commonly completed. The students will then be given some time to practice following the specific steps that allow them to complete the task. After they seem confident enough using these steps, they will be given the freedom to experiment with other approaches that they might have thought of after being taught the steps. They will be encouraged to use any methods that make the task easier for them as long as it gets them to the right answer. They will also be told that it is perfectly fine to use the steps taught by the teacher, but that the approach might not be the only or easiest one.
To conclude, I believe that in education neither constructivism nor behaviorism have all the answers. As a teacher, one must find a midpoint, a way to combine the best aspects of the two in order to provide the best learning environment and results. It is my opinion that St.Timothy was the better school among the three when it came to formal instruction and correcting misbehavior. I also find it worth mentioning that both Komatsudani's staff's lack of action disciplining the students and Dong-feng's bathroom routine were somewhat disconcerting.