Foundations of Constructivism/Case Examples/Chapter 6.6

CHAPTER 6.6: Literature (A fresh look)



Consideration of how to teach students is to acknowledge that each student does not learn in the same way. It is common practice for the teacher to choose one style of teaching (direct instruction, collaborative learning, inquiry learning, etc.), for the students they teach. Unfortunately, this will not maximize their learning potential. Realistically, it is not possible for the teacher to reach every student on the same level during one lesson, by implementing a variety of learning styles throughout the course it allows all the students will have the chance to learn in at least one way that matches their learning style. Most of the materials used to educate students at grade levels beyond primary school are largely text and lecture based. These materials have many significant limitations. While reading is a very important learning mode, not all students learn effectively from reading. Some students respond better to visual and audio stimuli of lecture but often get lost in the material or lose interest in the presentation. In this type of a learning environment, students have limited opportunity to ask questions or may be uncomfortable asking a question in front of the class. It is well known that many questions go unasked. For example, in most literature classes students read novels, poems and short stories form which they are told to give interpretation and insight. Most teachers have presupposed conclusions and interpretations in mind before hearing what the students have to say. Julie Mester writes in her article "Creatively Constructing a Community of Learners",unless children are actively and socially constructing learning themselves, they are merely recipients of a teacher's perceptions of knowledge that she or he deems is relevant for children to learn. Thus, the hierarchy of teacher over students is maintained, where the former is the all-knowing person of authority, and the expectation for the latter is to be passively receptive. These individuals may all work together in the same classroom on curricular standards and outcomes, but they do not become an intrinsically motivated community of learners." If the student does not respond with the answer already learned by the teacher they are usually dismissed without discussion or probing into why the student gave the answer they did. Culture, environment and experience have bearing on the way students respond to different writings.

Course Description


The aim of this course is to introduce students to a variety of literary works. Students are reading less mainly due to the lack of understanding of the works and the importance and effect they can have on their lives. This course will allow students to read and reflect on different works of literature within their own realms of thinking and interpretation. Students will divide into groups and read specified text. They will then write their thoughts, ideas and conclusions on paper. They will then elect a representative to present the groups findings to the class. The other groups will then offer thoughts on the text and generate more discussion. This course will be geared towards middle school students who are developing critical thinking, problem solving and writing skills. Students will use authentic (real-world) learning and assessments to interpret the works studied. Students will relate their findings to their own life and how it does or does not affect them. They will also discuss similar issues they may have experienced and how they can be handled in the future. Students will learn to interact with each other and gain better social and communication skills.

Constructivist Principles and Pedagogy


Students will work in groups rather than individually. Learning activities will involve projects that require reading different types of literary works to learn how characters deal with various experiences and then develop solutions. The aim is to introduce students to various views and situations that require critical thinking to solve. Interactive literary problems will be discussed and examined rather than instructional sequences that require learning certain content skills that are irrelevant and ineffectual for students. As Nisbet (cited in Coles & Robinson 1991, p. 27) states "the concept of teaching thinking is not new. The same idea is stressed by Swartz &Perkins (1990, p.5) 'it is important to remember that concern with developing students' thinking, far from being a fad, is one of the most persistent and ambitious aspirations of education, with a tradition stretching back at least to Plato'. Plato was famous for teaching thinking through the Socratic dialogue and traditional logic." This the aim of this course to teach thinking through the use of literature and writing.



The need to implement new strategies that will engage students in reading is of great need in our schools today. The dropout rate and illiteracy that is so prominent among students is only increasing. It is clear that changes need to be made in curriculum if we are to change the trend.This is especially true for disadvantaged and impoverished students who tend to suffer most from the current system strategies. Allington and Walmsley (2007) stated "children placed in low-achievement groups are “far more likely to (1) leave school before graduating, (2) fail a grade, (3) be placed in special education, (4) become a teenage parent, (5) commit a juvenile criminal offense, and (6) remain less than fully literate” (p. 2). Researchers and educators must consider the complexity of the developmental issues surrounding adolescents who struggle with reading." It is a necessity that schools develop strategies and curriculum that addresses the special needs of these students. Otherwise they will be lost in the system and never reach their potential or dreams.



Collaborative learning: the grouping and pairing of learners for the purpose of achieving a learning goal, has been widely researched and advocated - the term "collaborative learning" refers to an instruction method in which learners at various performance levels work together in small groups toward a common goal. The learners are responsible for one another's learning as well as their own. Thus, the success of one learner helps other students to be successful.

Direct instruction: is a method that is specifically designed to enhance academic learning time. Direct instruction does not assume that students will develop insights on their own. Instead, direct instruction takes learners through the steps of learning systematically, helping them see both the purpose and the result of each step. When teachers explain exactly what students are expected to learn, and demonstrate the steps needed to accomplish a particular academic task, students are likely to use their time more effectively and to learn more.

Inquiry-based learning: a range of philosophical, curricular and pedagogical approaches to teaching. Its core premises include the requirement that learning should be based around student's questions. Pedagogy and curriculum requires students to work together to solve problems rather than receiving direct instructions on what to do from the teacher. The teacher's job in an inquiry learning environment is therefore not to provide knowledge, but instead to help students along the process of discovering knowledge themselves. In this form of instruction, it is proposed that teachers should be viewed as facilitators of learning rather than vessels of knowledge. Even though this form of instruction has gained great popularity of the past decade, there is plenty of debate about the effectiveness of this form of instruction.

References and Resources


Assaf, M. (2009). Teaching and Thinking: A Literature Review of the Teaching of Thinking Skills. Online Submission, Retrieved from ERIC database.,cookie,url,uid&db=eric&AN=ED505029&site=ehost-live

Donalson, K. (2008, July 1). Opportunities Gained and Lost: Perceptions and Experiences of Sixth Grade Students Enrolled in a Title I Reading Class. Online Submission, Retrieved from ERIC database.,cookie,url,uid&db=eric&AN=ED502310&site=ehost-live

Mester, J. (2008). Creatively Constructing a Community of Learners. Early Childhood Research & Practice, 10(1), Retrieved from ERIC database.,cookie,url,uid&db=eric&AN=EJ848823&site=ehost-live

Chapter Quiz


1. Students will work in groups rather than individually. True False

2. Collaborative learning is different classes joining together in one class. True False

3. Culture, environment and experience have bearing on the way students respond to different writings. True False

4. Discuss the importance of critical thinking in literature and how it can aid in the life success of students?