Constructivism is the term used when we build upon our prior knowledge using real world experiences. In schools, we use a constructivist approach to preparing students to solve problems and construct or refine new understandings (Budi Usodo, 2016).
Types of Constructivism
- Psychological Constructivism
Personal psychological cognitive constructivism is often referred to as Piaget cognitive constuctivism. According to Piaget, cognitive structure of a person is due to the process of assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation is the process of getting new experiences and information and immediately connected with the mental structure that is already owned by someone. Accommodation is the process of re-structuring of the mental structure as a result of new experiences and information. (Budi Usodo, 2016)
So according to Piaget, learning is not only receiving information and experience, but also re-structuring the new information and experiences.
Learning principles using Piaget’s constructivist theory are:
- Meaning as internally constructed
In the process of constructing knowledge, information is individually interpreted by learners in their own learning experiences.
- Learning and teaching as negotiated construction of meaning
Construction of meaning is a negotiation process between individual learners with their experiences through an interaction in the learning process. Thus learners construct their knowledge based on their own individual past experiences.
- Teaching is not just transferring knowledge from teachers to their learners, but is also an activity that allows learners to construct their own meaning and knowledge.
- Teaching means a partnership with learners in constructing meaning, looking for clarity, being critical and creating justifications.
- Knowledge is structured and stored uniquely by each individual student.
- When students link their past knowledge with new information (gained through their experiences), they develop their understanding of larger related concepts.
For example, in the mental structure of 4th graders, they have had knowledge of odd and even numbers. The students were given some numbers from 1 to 30. Then the students wrote factors of each number and perceived what patterns emerged. Students understood that most of the numbers (2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17 and 19) only had two factors, and these were all odd numbers (except the number 2). Students were able to integrate this new understanding into their own cognitive structure and assimilation happened. New information about prime numbers caused some cognitive restructuring (accommodation) to take place because the number 2 did not fit the expected odd number pattern.
- Social Constructivism
Vygotsky believed that learning occurs when students handle tasks that they haven’t learned before, but these tasks are still within range of their abilities (zone of proximal development). This zone of proximal development is the area between the actual developmental level that a child is actually at developmentally and and the level of potential that the child can achieve.
Learning principles as the implications of Vygotsky socio-cultural constructivist theory are:
- Social interaction is important, better knowledge is constructed by involving other people.
- Human development occurs through cultural tools (language, symbols) that is transmitted from person to person.
- The zone of proximal development is the difference between what can be done alone (actual ability) and what can be done with the help from adults (potential capabilities).
For example, 4th grade students constructed their knowledge about what economic activity was. Teachers facilitated an activity to identify economic and non-economic activities. Students worked in groups, cut images from old magazines and newspapers, identified each image as economic activity or non-economic activity and continued by classifying the images. When the students identified and classified the pictures, each image selection involved social interactions between students and also with the teachers. Each group discussed and constructed their understanding about what economic and non-economic activity was. The students shared their ideas. Teachers guided the students to construct their definitions of economic activity and non-economic activity. The similar activities were also applied when the students, facilitated by the teachers, constructed their knowledge about the differences between goods and services; and also the difference between needs and wants.
Teaching methods in constructivist approach
The learning method that can be applied using constructivism learning is inquiry method. Learning using inquiry method is an essential way for students to construct their own meaning and gained new knowledge.
Firdausi Nuzula, Associate PYP Coordinator and Grade 4 Homeroom Teacher
Sekolah Buin Batu, Sumbawa Barat, NTB
Trade is based on a human’s capability to assess, price and market a product. Conducting trade is a skill that helps develop the intellect and willpower of an individual. It is a positive thing to teach children to trade and have children learn to do business at an early age. Teaching children to trade does not only help them to become independent and confident, but also makes them aware of their community.
In the unit of inquiry, ‘How We Organize Ourselves’, Grade 3 students organized a mini-bazaar last as their summative task. The central idea of the unit was “marketplaces rely on the production and distribution of goods and services”.
The learning objectives of organizing the mini-bazaar are as follows:
- Develop an awareness of different perspectives and ways of organizing economic activities
- Develop a list of criteria for ethical practices regarding products and services
- Explain how supply and demand are affected by population and the availability of resources
- Identify roles, goals, rights and responsibilities in society
- Learn to make a profit from their business venture
- Train students to be entrepreneurs
For this task, students were divided into four to five groups in each class. To prepare the mini-bazaar, teachers and students talked about what the students were going to sell. Students also decided on the prices and discussed their roles and responsibilities in the group, such as who would be the leader and cashier during the event.
To raise the capital, the students collected money by doing household chores for about a month prior to the mini-bazaar. Getting involved in household chores is one way the students can learn how to earn money and be responsible. After earning enough money, students used the money to buy the items to sell.
In order to support the event, teachers asked for parents’ assistance in preparing the items that the students were going to sell. One day before the mini-bazaar, the students were very enthusiastic in preparing their booths, including putting prices on the items.
Students preparing their booth decorations
Students named their booths creatively. They came up with interesting names for their booths, such as “Funny in My Tummy”, “Fun in Wonderland”, and “Amazing Surprise”.
When the big day finally arrived, the mini-bazaar was held from 7.30am until 1.00pm. Teachers, staff, parents and students from other grade levels, including middle school and high school students came and supported the event.
Teachers, parents, and students at the opening of the mini-bazaar
In total, there were 18 student booths offering a big variety of things for sale. Healthy snacks, fresh juices, and handicrafts were some of the items sold by the students. Students also came up with educational games for their booths.
The parents and students worked together to serve the customers. Several students walked around to entice customers to visit their stalls, while others preferred to wait in their booths for buyers.
After the mini-bazaar, parents and students went back to the classroom to count the money. The students received their capital back and divided the profit equally among the group members.
The event was successful! The students were so excited leading up to the event and had a great time organizing their mini-bazaar. Some of the lessons learnt by the students were marketing strategies, dealing with customers, earning money, saving money and managing money. The mini-bazaar will be an essential part of the students’ learning experiences in Grade 3.
By: Eka Fridayanti
Grade 3 Co-Teacher
BINUS SCHOOL Simprug
One of the strategies that we can use for promoting inquiry is a mystery box. A mystery box is a great way to introduce any concept and grab students’ interest and attention. This strategy can be used over and over again.
In exploring the unit of inquiry on “How the world works”, students were introduced to a mystery box filled with 10 to 15 objects. The unit of inquiry has the central idea, “machines bring efficiency and convenience in people’s lives.”
In making use of the mystery box, examples of simple machines like rolling pin, a pair of scissors, and a paper hole punch machine were in it. Students were then asked to grab one object from the box with their eyes closed. Afterwards, they guessed the object and described it through their sense of touch.
The learning engagement was integrated with language. Students used adjectives to describe the object that they got from the mystery box as shown in the following example.
After using a few adjectives to describe what they had touched, the students were then asked to open their eyes to talk more about the object as presented below.
During the learning engagement, students talked about the name and use of the object as well as what would happen if the tool was not invented. Students gave responses such as, “It will be difficult to knead the dough flat. We will feel tired if we have to use our hands” and “It would be difficult to cut vegetables and fruits if the knife was not invented.”
Apart from using their senses, the mystery box learning engagement helped the students practice on their language skills, learn new vocabulary, and enhanced their thinking skills. After the learning engagement, students reflected and collected their thoughts using a concept map, which they used for writing a descriptive text.
Students found the mystery box learning engagement interesting and they were able to make a connection with their daily life. Students also better understood the importance of machines.
By: Rajeswari Chandrasekar
Grade 1 Class Teacher
BINUS SCHOOL SIMPRUG
As part of our learning engagements for one of our units of inquiry, Grade 3A students went on a field trip to Ranch Market in Pondok Indah, South Jakarta. Each student brought a shopping list, a reusable shopping bag and money – maximum of Rp. 100, 000. The field trip aimed to teach the students how to value money, know the production and distribution processes of goods and services, and to find out the different sections in the modern market, which were connected to our central idea, “Marketplaces rely on the production and distribution of goods and services” in our unit of inquiry under how we organize ourselves.
Prior to their field trip, the students were divided into four groups. There were five or six students in each group. A supervisor was assigned to look after each group – a class mom was one of them.
When the students arrived at the area, they could not contain their excitement. They could not wait to shop, but their excitement was put on hold because they were first taken round to the different sections: the fruit section, the vegetable section, the meat section, the fish section and the dry goods section. While listening to the tour guide, we overheard them asking about the time for shopping. We just laughed because the students could not wait any longer.
As the tour ended, the students were asked what they wanted to do next. All of them replied in unison, ‘Shopping!’ Since they were too excited, we jokingly said that it was time to go home. All of the students said ‘No!’ and looked gloomy, but to bring back their excitement, they were told that they were right – It was time for shopping! They were ecstatic and readied their shopping list, money and shopping bag. They were told to stick with their groups and to their assigned supervisors. They enthusiastically searched and picked the items included on their shopping lists.
Most of the students made sure that their chosen items did not exceed the amount of money that they had. However, there were few of them who did exceed and the cashiers told them to put back the items that they did not want so much. The students made sure that they calculated the prices of their chosen items before heading to the counters to pay.
After all of the students were done shopping and paying, we had time to take photos. Then, we headed back to school with them beaming with happiness after their recent experiences. When we arrived in school, they wrote their reflection about their trip with these guiding questions: Where did you go and what was the objective of today’s field trip? How much money were you given by your parents? Check the receipt that you received from the store. Make a list of things that you bought and write down the prices. How much change did you receive? Did you have any problems while shopping? If so, how did you solve them? What did you learn from your shopping trip? Write/draw your memorable part of your trip.
Most of them said they wished that they could go back to the supermarket and shop again with their friends not with their parents as they “want to be independent and have freedom in buying what they need and want”.
A few said that they were confused on where to locate the specific items they needed since the market was huge and wide. Others learned that the products or goods on their shopping list were not available all the time and had to be quick to think of the replacements, which could be other brands or items.
It was indeed a wonderful experience for the students. Most of them were able to find out that the goods and services at the supermarket are divided into different sections so it is easy for shoppers to locate and find what they want. The students also realized the importance of choosing the fresh produce and the best quality products and most of all, check the expiration date to make sure the goods are still alright to be consumed. Likewise, they learned that as early as possible, they have to start saving money instead of spending it on unnecessary stuff or their wants.
The students also pointed out that they now value money and emphasized that they should only buy what they need. They know now that they should not spend beyond their means so they do not end up starving the next day.
As teachers, it was wonderful to see our students learning how to be independent and experience first-hand how grown-ups shop and budget their money. It was also wonderful to see students learning how to queue, wait for their turn and realize that they need to make sure that the things they have chosen do not exceed the money that they have.
It is indeed remarkable to teach students at a very young age how to value money – to check their budget, lessen their expenses, and that to earn money entails hard work.
By: Mr. Freitz Gerald Talavera and Ms. Martha Carolina
Grade 3 Teachers
BINUS SCHOOL Simprug, Jakarta
As the day of a teacher ends, sometimes we ask ourselves if we have done enough or if we have done a lot. Questions occur while traveling home or even when taking a shower. And still at the end of the day, the only thing we can do is to wait for tomorrow and make things better. Here are random questions and activities that we can do or ask ourselves at the end of the day to aid us in planning for a better tomorrow.
Write down something everybody learned.
Write down something nobody learned.
Write down something different each child learned.
Name the child who already knew everything you taught.
Name the child who learned nothing.
Did you do anything other than group instruction?
Did you challenge pupils’ intellects?
Did anyone work on an independent learning problem?
Did you reject any child?
How many children failed to learn the lesson for the day?
Did anyone work on the board? Did you?
Did students do anything other than listen to you, write, read, and answer your question?
Did any child help another?
How often did you reinforce the children’s correct response?
Did you repeat every answer? For what?
How often did each child get a chance to talk, ask and answer?
Did any child ask a question?
Did the class laugh? Did you at someone, something with someone?
Were you angry? Why?
Was any child angry? Why?
How many students did you praise? For what?
Did you teach reading (not just hear the students read)?
Did you teach new words before or after reading?
Did you read to the class? Why?
How do you feel about the day’s work?
These questions are just tips for us, teachers, to face a better tomorrow with our students in our class.
As teachers, we need to pay attention to children’s emotional and social well-being as well as their academic progress. We need to create an environment in which learning can become a joyful experience for our students as well as other members of the school community.
By: Jose Noel Guasch Veloso
Grade 1 Class Teacher
BINUS SCHOOL Simprug
The grating sounds of saws at work and of nails being drilled into hard bamboo filled the air as children, totally immersed in their project, carried 30 foot poles of bamboo to makeshift stands made from chairs, measured them carefully into different lengths and sawed, drilled and hammered away.
It had been an exciting few weeks. The Grade 4 children at Bali Island School had been looking at how the design of buildings and structures was dependent on environmental factors, available materials and human ingenuity. As part of the inquiry, the children had met and interviewed two well-known architects in Bali, visited an indigenous Balinese compound, as well as a marvelous centre for yoga, built completely from bamboo. The children were curious to find out why certain materials were used for building in modern and traditional Balinese structures. So they devised many scientific experiments to test a variety of building materials for strength, insulation and waterproofing qualities. This helped the students to understand their properties better. They were astonished to learn that bamboo was as strong as iron of the same mass!
The next question was how could they apply their newfound knowledge to an authentic, real life situation? The result: A desperately needed Lost and Found Property Centre for the Primary School.
The children first decided to brainstorm ideas of what had to be considered before starting the project. They looked closely at the lost property in the school to see what they had to plan for. Many questions arose that ranged from which building materials would be the most suitable to how to decide the right measurements. They wondered how different kinds of lost property would be best stored. What if it was a wet swimming costume and towel? Should they have pegs or a bar with hangers for clothes? Did they need drawers in which to lock valuable things or should they stick to shelves? They decided to measure bottles, bags and lost kits to understand the shelf size needed. They considered the average heights and arm lengths of the children and teachers to decide on how tall the centre should be and how deep.
What else did the children gain from this experience? By being challenged and actively engaged in tasks that were authentic, relevant to them and significant to the entire community, this project helped to promote self-management, perseverance, and a willingness to adapt to different roles and collaborate respectfully over different ideas and assume responsibility. In short, many of the skills necessary to help our students thrive and succeed as responsible citizens in a changing world.
Grade 4, Classroom Teacher
Bali Island School
(Formally Bali International School)
I found a very interesting artist for my grade 5 visual art lesson on the unit of inquiry, “How the World Works”. The name of the artist is Tony Orrico, an American and best known as “human spirograph”. Spirograph is like a mathematical toy that creates elaborate circular shapes known as “hypotrochoids” and “epitrochoids”.
Tony Orrico is famous for his “Penwald Drawings”, which consist of a series of bilateral drawings in which the artist explores the use of the human body as an instrument to create geometric patterns through movement and course. Through a series of careful movements and repetition of his arms, Tony Orrico creates compelling and beautiful geometric artwork. Tightly clenching carbon sticks of graphite in his fists, he makes series of repeated and varied movements involving his entire body over predetermined periods of time or until certain numbers of strokes, cycles or rotations are done.
Tony Orrico does not only use body movements to create his masterpieces but also his teeth. He spends between 15 minutes and seven hours to complete one of his artworks.
In the end, I was surprised when we did a reflection. Students commented that they admired Tony Orrico’s stamina in doing his masterpieces. Students said that Tony Orrico’s artworks look very easy to do, but in reality one has to work hard to follow his style. Students noted that Tony Orrico can spend 15 minutes to seven hours non-stop, but when they were doing it as a group, they felt tired even just for a minute. It made them realize that creating a masterpiece does not only require creativity but also passion and perseverance.
By: Irma Dwi Savitri
Visual Art Teacher
BINUS SCHOOL Simprug