Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Viewing My Research Through Constructivism

After spending longer than I care to admit perusing the myriad of methodologies presented on our course website, I decided to check out Constructivism. I first became aware of this theoretical framework in my undergraduate sociology courses. As it applies to instruction, Constructivists are concerned with four major principles. The first, Readiness, refers to the personal experiences and contexts that allow students to be willing and able to learn. Spiral Organization, the second principle, focuses on structuring content for easy understanding. Going Beyond the Information Given and The Nature and Pacing of Rewards and Punishments suggest designing instruction to facilitate extrapolation and filling-in gaps of knowledge for one’s own edification (Kearsley). Each of these principals provide a foundation with which to view with my interest in the adaptation of technology in facilitating Authentic Learning. Other theories (such as Social Development theory, Multiple Intelligences theory, Feminist theories, and Social Justice inquiry) can be used in conjunction with Constructivism to offer more insight into the understanding of how meaning is derived within cognitive structures.

Readiness, the first principle of Constructivist theory as it applies to instruction, connects with the first two criteria of Authentic Instruction, “(1) students construct meaning and produce knowledge, (2) students use disciplined inquiry to construct meaning” (Newmann & Wehlage, 1993, p. 8). Students are unable to create meaningful questions without basing their inquiries on prior assumptions and beliefs. Constructivism allows us to see that new knowledge can be acquired only after the appropriate groundwork has been laid. On a practical level, this could translate into making sure learners are familiar with technical tools of online learning. Vygotsky’s Social Development theory can also be used to help translate the Readiness principal into a tool for Authentic Instruction curriculum development by establishing an appropriate base for students.

Spiral Learning builds upon Readiness by structuring content for easy student understanding. This relates to many standards of Authentic Instruction, including Depth of Knowledge, Connectedness to the World, Substantive Conversation, and Social Support for Student Achievement. Building an online environment where these values are emphasized requires specific attention be paid to accessibility issues and learning styles. Accessibility issues make up a major concern in online learning, and Constructivism stresses that content must be structured in a way that all learners are able to access educational tools. Student needs and learning styles could also examined and assisted through the theory of Multiple Intelligences as well.

The third principle of Constructivism, Going Beyond the Information Given, is what I believe to be the crux of Authentic Learning. The final Authentic Instruction criteria, student work aimed “toward production of discourse, products, and performances that have value of meaning beyond success in school” (Newmann & Wehlage, 1993, p. 8), and the standard of Higher-Order Thinking reflect this theme. Constructivists believe that Rewards and Punishments (the final principle) for learning should be centered on personal growth. Feminist theories (particularly the collaborative themes stressed in the Feminist Invitational Collaboration in a Digital Age) and Social Justice theories would be particularly suited to help formulate techniques that foster the ability to think critically and provide motivation for future study.

As applied to curriculum development, Constructivist principles clearly merge with the criteria and standards of Authentic Instruction. By using the framework of Readiness, Spiral Learning, Going Beyond the Information Given and Rewards and Punishments, a researcher will be able to assess the success of Authentic Instruction as it applies to online learning. Many other theories from the smorgasbord of methodologies can be sampled and applied seamlessly into the Constructivist approach as well, creating an opportunity for both rich and diverse discourse.

Works Cited

Kearsley, G. September 27, 2010. The Theory Into Practice Database. Retrieved from http://tip.psychology.org/bruner.html

Newmann, F. M., & Wehlage, G. G. (1993). Five standards of authentic instruction. Educational Leadership, 50(7), 8-12. http://pdonline.ascd.org/pd_online/diffinstr/el199304_newmann.html

Other Methodology Resources:

Feminist Invitational Collaboration in a Digital Age: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Gender,_Communication,_and_Technology/Feminist_Invitational_Collaboration_in_a_Digital_Age:_Looking_over_Disciplinary_and_National_Borders

Feminist Theories: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist_theory

Multiple Intelligences: http://tip.psychology.org/gardner.html

Social Development Theory: http://tip.psychology.org/vygotsky.html

Social Justice Theories: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teaching_for_social_justice

Monday, September 20, 2010

Problem Statement Draft

I'm having a really hard time finding my focus, so I thought I might use the opportunity to create a few problem statements. Here is the construct we were provided with:

Parts of a Qualitative Problem Statement:
The purpose of this [type of study] study is to understand [what] of [who or what] involving [what or who] from [when] to [purpose].

The purpose of this [____] is to understand if e-Learning can provide educators with accessible Authentic Instruction....
1. [qualitative study] ...during the semester of a hybrid and/or fully online class through the perspective of a participant/researcher to experience the strengths and weaknesses of current technology.
2. [meta-analysis] ...through a review of current research, trends and new technology to synthesize best practices.
3. [quantitative study] ...by analyzing comprehensive testing data of current online class takers to determine internalized knowledge.

Research Concept Map (First Draft)

Here's the first draft of my research concept map. I'm having trouble narrowing my focus, but hopefully we'll be able to discuss some options in class tomorrow.

Enjoy! And let me know if you have any trouble viewing. The full-screen presentation can be viewed here: https://prezi.com/secure/5775adf95daac03b024b216a2087cf1568a3efe7/