Posts Tagged ‘motivation’

Peter Benson and Sparks

October 12, 2011

This Tedx talk by recently deceased Peter L. Benson, former president and CEO of Minneapolis-based Search Institute, is very reminiscent of Ken Robinson’s notion of The Element. Like Robinson, Benson indicates the significance to our learning of finding out what truly inspires us. He similarly emphasises the role of creativity in learning. In a final point of comparison, he relates anecdotes (such as the one about Amy Irving) that give an unexpected insight into the background of some well known person. Here’s a quote from the final minutes of the talk:

I would make knowing kids’ sparks at the very centre of school life. In fact, I’d put it right at the front. I don’t know how you can engage and connect and bond kids to the institution called school without knowing their spark. I would teach families the process of the spark dialogue, and how to name, firm and be champion. I would make the first parent-teacher conference of the year to be about the spark of a kid: let’s talk that through, and we’ll get to the rest of the stuff.


March 14, 2010

Constructivism is an appealing pedagogical theory for a philosopher, and it is noteworthy that its history has been traced back to the Socratic dialogue. I believe that motivation is the single biggest factor in learning, and finding solutions to real-life problems is a significant source of motivation. Through its emphasis on real-life problems, inquiry-based learning, and collaborative work, the constructivist approach is far more likely to engage students, and encourage them to own their learning. The sorts of transferable skills that constructivist methods develop will be more useful to students at higher levels of education and in the workplace.

Having said that, I believe that implementation of a constructivist approach requires good planning and experienced teaching. One of the criticisms of Constructivism is that it neglects traditional skills. I believe it is up to the teacher to ensure that traditional skills are acquired in school, even if a constructivist ethos prevails in the classroom. Students will still be judged by their literacy and/or numeracy skills in the upper levels of education and in the workplace.

Web 2.0 is well suited to a constructivist pedagogy. In fact, it is almost a perfect embodiment of it. Web 1.0 gave people unprecedented access to a staggering amount of information. Web 2.0 allows them to interact with this information in ever more creative ways – linking to it, adding to it, discussing it, and so on. Moreover, it does so in a collaborative way. Wikipedia is perhaps the best example of this, with people reading, creating and modifying content in the main article pages, and often hotly debating the content and justifying their editorial choices on the related article talk-pages.

Blogs are another good example of a Web 2.0 technology that embody the constructivist paradigm. In the classroom, blogs can be a way of conveying information, garnering feedback, checking comprehension, encouraging debate, inculcating multiliteracies, and so on. I also believe that students are far more likely to engage with this technology after school hours. If the technology is used wisely, ‘homework’ may lose its dire reputation, and students might look forward to going home to continue projects that were begun during the day.

I see no point in sticking with a pedagogy that was developed during the information-impoverished Industrial Revolution: books were scarce and schools were places where knowledge could be acquired from expert teachers. We live in an era when even children can access vast amounts of information. The role of the teacher must become the constructivist one of mentor and facilitator, ensuring that students acquire the critical skills necessary to negotiate this 21st-century world.