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RE: making constructivism simple


From: Patricia Knott (pknott_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sun May 19 2002 - 12:26:50 PDT

> The piece is classically journalistic. "Never let facts stand in the way of a
> good story"
> The article begins by telling us a 6 year old can build a [electric] motor and
> write [computer] programs to run it. Magic! The implication being that rest of
> the story wikll explain how such a miracle was accomplished. Journalism rarely
> delivers on these promises because so many journalists rarely have the time or
> the interest to understand the subjects of stories here today and gone
> tomorrow. Ms O'Brien won't disappoint us in this expectation.

When I originally posted the article, this was the thought I had in mind. I
was being sarcastic in my post, but unfortunately my sarcasm often seems to
get lost .

The point that I didn't make was how theory gets lost in delivery. I sit
through teacher In Services where theories are presented -- theories that
have been watered down and simplified to the point that they are
prostituted. ( I still reel as to how Gardner's theories have been
The bottom line is that no matter what theories come along, and no matter
what historical relevancy they have , we all tend to teach from what worked
best for us with the notion that it will work for our students. The people
that come up with this stuff have to realize that teachers are bombarded
with theories, methods, and initiatives that they are often ill prepared to
deliver. So what happens? The paper work occurs, the curriculum is
written, the discourse and the obligatory in service happens and then
teachers go back to their classrooms and ....

and unless they are observed, they rely on the reliable
and the observers don't know anything more than the teacher

> The point you make Teresa, that "interpreting it into school systems is the
> problem." is the crucial one. The translation of the ideal and rational into
> the real and functioning is indeed the trick.
> As you say the evidence has been around a long time BUT clearly we have yet to
> master constructivism or to harness it sufficiently to bring its benefits to
> the college of art education.

Teacher training at the university level is the key.

> I know it can work with specific types of students but this class of student
> would do pretty well no matter what given the support encouragement and
> resources. There are, unfortunately, all too many students for whom support
> encouragement and resources won't be quite enough.
> What seems too be missing is motivation to participate and a driving need in
> the student to learn something. Constructivism makes the process flow and at
> times is, in itself, sufficient to kickstart a few kids.

It seems to me that everything gets put upon the teacher and the lack of
student responsibility overwhelms us.
And yes henry,
we are NOT addressing what is real in THEIR world.
I'm not sure that we are smart enough or savvy enough to get into their
world. I'm not sure I feel adequate in the translation of the images that
bombard them every day. I certainly don't know how to manipulate as well as
they do. Problematizing issues for student consumption is inadequate. It is
a form of manipulation and they can recognize it. Good for some students but
not for enough of them.

> There have been many learning traditions on the planet
> and they all have met human needs. Some have emphasized
> intellectual ways of knowing, others memnonic ways and
> yet others visceral and unconscious ways. All have
> something to be said for them. All have their places.
> Better perhaps to match the student to the theory and
> to celebrate an ecological diversity and richness of
> multiple epistemologies.

Sometimes, I think, we focus too much on the failures in the system and not
the successes. I detect this need by the art educators that we should
"reach" all. And in that reaching we get saddled by programs like DBAE
with all it's inadequacies.

I'm looking for a program that encourages creative thinking without a test
for a standard. I don't even like rubrics anymore. I want to provide a place
that allows for freedom of exploration, a place where I am smart enough to
present problems that are worthy enough (and devoid of my personal content)
to be solved. A place where kids can be that is absolutely free from a
rating of less than proficient. A place where no enterprise fails. And no
two things look alike

And one more thing
those of you that pontificate
need to realize that the kids want technique, want guidance,
want what we can give them that maybe they can't discover on their own
(they don't want to waste time either)

There will never be a "How To" for teaching art
there are no good text books
there is only exploration

If I had been judged, some 30+ years ago when I was in high school, by the
standards that exist to today, I would have failed. I was allowed to problem
solve and take a path. My work was primitive, yet I had a teacher that saw
the potential.

Before I get inundated with more theory as to what I'm supposed to do as a
teacher, theories that I will have to translate to curriculum writing, tell
me where is the place for just what it is that I'm a teacher for--- to
recognize, encourage , and nurture
and please recognize I can do all I can do, but if the other disciplines
are not concurrent
then I still get kids manipulating the system and not taking art because
it's too much work.