Balancing Instructionism & Constructivism

Graham Brown-Martin
May 26 · 3 min read

However, the majority of people first learn to play a piano without learning music notation. They’re just not measured in the same way and, as a result, the notes come later if not at all. It is the playing of the instrument that motivates the player to learn more. For some, this is simply a better way to learn. Balance in all things perhaps?

The music notation first approach to learning to play & create music is a key factor in learners who might otherwise become talented musicians losing interest early. Why place this obstacle in the way if the desired outcome is a love of music and ability to compose? Fortunately, however, we see many talented artists emerge who have not received this classical, notation first approach but have been set free to tinker first and explore the medium perhaps discovering the value of learning the notation later.

The notation first approach permeates the traditional approach to teaching via direct instruction. Mathematics, for example, continues to be taught as if it were a dead language devoid of any real application to something that learners are interested in or might be useful to them or their community. As a result the majority leave school believing they have no talent in math when the reverse might actually be true. This is a loss to society as much as to the learner.

Might achieving a balance between teaching and learning lead to more engaged learners and improved outcomes?

There’s a wealth of evidence and research that suggests that there is:

Does it depend upon what the outcomes are that we value and how we feel compelled to measure them?

Could it be that it’s the measurement systems, often owned by the textbook industry, that are deficient or no longer fit for purpose?

It easy to see how the same approach of allowing learners to make early, unencumbered progress can be applied across the curriculum & especially when we look forward to designing curriculums around STEAM learning which, by definition, is interdisciplinary & requires alternative approaches that might include, for example, project-based learning, i.e. a constructivist or constructionist approach, to achieve a deep understanding of the subject matter and its real-world, meaningful application.

This I think is at the core of your argument here. Good teachers use a repertoire of techniques in their practice, provided they know about their existence, and the craft of teaching is knowing how to balance direct instruction with the opportunity for learners to practice transference to demonstrate their learning via constructivist or constructionist approaches.

Thus, teachers are much more than instructional designers & deliverers of content, they are learning experience designers.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

Graham Brown-Martin

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Society, Innovation & Education + Foresight & Anticipation