Teaching is a profession that is considered to be a rewarding challenging and complex role. An effective teacher does not simply teach knowledge their students and instead aims to arm students with the knowledge, skills, understanding and attitudes that will prepare students for life-long learning. The constructivist theories developed by Piaget and Vygotsky have impacted on the way that teachers teach and this has changed the approach of teaching to place a greater importance on the teacher instead to act as a facilitator of learning in an open, constructivist environment and providing students with the tools to challenge themselves to develop both academically and personally. The education of students within classrooms of today is important for the future as the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are instilled by the teachers will determine the child’s future development, and an effective teacher utilises their skills to have a positive impact and to cement the foundation for life-long learning.
Theory of Teaching
An understanding of the development and teaching theorists is essential characteristics of an effective teacher, as these theories allow a teacher to understand the development of children, how they learn, interpret, comprehend information and this base is used to develop a working knowledge of how best to teach and generate a positive learning outcome. The Western Australian Curriculum Framework approach to teaching and learning is based on the constructivism view and the new Australian Curriculum incorporates this learning theory and the constructivism theory is demonstrated in the Maths video classroom of Ms Poole (ACARA, 2012; Davies, 2008; Fetherston, 2007).
The learning theory of constructivism is characterised by problem-based learning, in which a student participates actively in building and developing their individual knowledge and understanding through collaborating with groups with active participation through hands-on learning, conducting experiments and participating in interactive tasks (Marsh, 2010).
Constructivism is connected to the theories of Piaget and Vygotsky. Piaget believed that cognitive development occurred in four stages that have distinct developmental characteristics. He theorised that all information is organised into ‘schemas’, and this refers to the manner in which a child organises and stores information and knowledge received. As new information is received, it is either incorporated into existing schemas (assimilation) or new schemas (accommodation) are created (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2010). Vygotsky’s theories compliment those of Piaget and place a greater importance on social interaction as he considered cognitive development predominately was achieved through social interaction. Vygotsky believed that learning could be accelerated with the assistance of a more advanced peer or teacher. This concept is referred to as the zone of proximal development (ZPD) and works in conjunction with the theory of ‘scaffolding’, where a teacher provides support to student and as proficiency increases the scaffolding is decreased (Marsh, 2008). Evidence of scaffolding is seen throughout the Maths video as Ms Poole provides an outline of the lesson and the goals to allow students to establish a focus.
The impact of the constructivist theorists have had on education have been profound, and the legacy of their views are seen in classroom settings as teachers incorporate constructivist theories through creating lesson plans and teaching in a manner that has a solid constructivist foundation with a focus on discovery learning with a learner-centred approach (Flavell, 1996; Webb, 1980). As seen in the Maths video and lesson plan (appendix A), there is strong link to constructivism as tasks adopt a learning-centred approach through interactive tasks, use of collaboration with other students, providing opportunities to create and experiment own theories...
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