Saturday, June 29, 2013

On Constructivism

From the book, ‘Tuition to Intuition’ by Dr.K.N.Anandan (
Susan Hanley describes her perspective on the objectivist model:
“Classes are usually driven by “teacher talk” and depend heavily on textbooks for the structure of the course. There is the idea that there is a fixed world of knowledge that the student must come to know. Information is divided into parts and built into a whole concept. Teachers serve as pipelines and seek to transfer their thoughts and meanings to the passive student. There is little room for student-initiated questions, independent thought or interaction between students. The goal of the learner is to regurgitate the accepted explanation or methodology expostulated by the teacher.”
Von Glaserseld’s (1995b) in radical constructivist conception of learning says, the teachers play the role of a “midwife in the birth of understanding” as opposed to being “mechanics of knowledge transfer”. He argues that: “From the constructivist perspective, learning is not a stimulus-response phenomenon. It requires self-regulation and the building of conceptual structures through reflection and abstraction.” Fosnot (1996) adds that ‘rather than behaviours or skills as the goal of instruction, concept development and deep understanding are the foci.”
In constructivist paradigm, learning emphasizes the process and not the product. How one arrives at a particular answer, and not the retrieval of an ‘objectively true solution’, is what is important. Learning is a process of constructing meaningful representations, of making sense of one’s experiential world. In this process, students’ errors are seen in positive light and as a means of gaining insight into how they are organizing their experiential world. The notion of doing something ‘right’ or ‘correctly’ is to do something that fits with ‘an order one has established oneself’. This perspective is consistent with the constructivist tendency to privilege multiple truths, representations, perspectives and realities.
Design principles of Constructivism
Jonassen (1991) notes that many educators and cognitive psychologists have applied constructivism to the development of learning environments. From these applications, he has isolated a number of design principles:
  1. Create real-world environments that employ the context in which learning is relevant;
  2. Focus on realistic approaches to solving real-world problems;
  3. The instructor is a coach and analyzer of the strategies used to solve these problems;
  4. Stress conceptual interrelatedness, providing multiple representations or perspectives on the content;
  5. Instructional goals and objectives should be negotiated and not imposed;
  6. Evaluation should serve as a self-analysis tool;
  7. Provide tools and environments that  help learners interpret the multiple perspectives of the world;
  8. Learning should be internally controlled and mediated by the learner
Jonassesn (1994) summarizes what he refers to as “the implications of constructivism for instructional design”. The following principles illustrate how knowledge construction can be facilitated:
  1. Provide multiple representations of reality;
  2. Represent the natural complexity of the real world;
  3. Focus on knowledge construction, not reproduction;
  4. Present authentic tasks (contextualizing rather than abstracting instruction);
  5. Provide real-world, case-based learning environments, rather than pre-determined instructional sequences;
  6. Foster reflective practice;
  7. Enable context-and content dependent knowledge construction;
  8. Support collaborative construction of knowledge through social negotiation.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Visit to Malaiyur

Seldom did I guess that it would be an inspirational journey. My two years of experience at a tribal pocket in Jawadhu hills gave me the necessary will and confidence to agree upon or at least didn’t scare me. Thus the journey to Malaiyur village began on 24th June, 2013 (Monday).
A secluded village – roadless – unconnected – perched on top of a mountain (I was told it belongs to the Sirumalai hills range). Amazing to see a community of 200 odd families that have been living up there for generations – though not categorized under Scheduled Tribes (ST). The walk itself was ardous – didn’t expect such a steep climb and the ageing started kicking in. Yeah my vigour of 20s is soon to end. But I found it worth only after seeing those sweet kids studying at their night school/ tuition centre.
A bunch of carefree lower primary schoolers are a treatise to any teacher – couldn’t help myself getting in the rhythm with their multiplication tables and rhymes. So cute they are. I went into narrating stories – which was wonderful. For the first time, I started realizing a proper story teller and a narrator blossoming within me. This inspired my friend Ranjith from EcoLogin who was accompanied with me to join the crowd. Little did I know that I can narrate such stories – Thonthi vayiru Ramasamy, Varam ketta Rana, Tortoise-Hare story part-2 (yeah! There is a sequel to it!) (Courtesy Rajendran sir). Little did I know I was at bliss.
How it all started?
Given the remoteness of the village, the discrimination was obvious – both socially and economically. There is this one person named Ponnazhagan who took on a lead to do something for his community. An 8th standard pass-out, he realized the importance of Education that could bring a life-changing impact upon his kins. He himself struggled hard to study, for he had to walk at least two and a half hours to reach the nearest school at Mulaiyur village. This struggle inspired him to start a night school or a tuition centre at his village to help those students out some ten years before. Now this tuition centre has been catering to a large number of children year after year – that there are graduates in BA, MA, MSW, Diplomas looking back at this humble centre for aiding them out. And of course, it doesn’t end here and a lot more needs to be done and could be done for this community
How to reach the village?
You can reach the village by taking the bus to Natham from Dindigul or Madurai. From Natham, there are share autos that take a detour on Dindigul road at a village called Erumanaickenpatti and to reach a hamlet called Elliparai where Ponnalazhagan stays. From there is a 3 km hike uphill to reach Malaiyur. For more plans on visiting this place one can get in touch with EcoLogin