Constructivism is the name for the idea that people build understanding based on their prior experience, beliefs, and schemas. For some reason, this viewpoint is how I have always approached tutoring. I think it’s because I wanted to come to the table from the student’s point of view, always trying to understand what the student knows beforehand and building upon that baseline.
I’m going to state a laundry list of the most important constructivism tips below (taken from Omrod’s “Educational Psychology”):
-Provide a best example (a “prototype” example)
-Ask students to identify examples and non examples
-Ask students to generate their own examples
-Students should experiment first hand
-Present expert perspectives
-Emphasize conceptual understanding, thinking, and learning as more important than factual knowledge
-Organize units around a few core ideas, always relating specific content to this core
-Ask students to teach what they have learned to others
-Encourage group and class dialogue–a community of learners (students remember better when they talk with others)
-Use authentic activities and projects that incorporate two or more subjects (ie activities one might encounter in the real world)
The chapter also has some nice tips for addressing misconceptions and promoting disequilibrium (disequilibrium is that mental discomfort necessary to overcome a misconception).
-Preserve self esteem when pointing out errors
-Ask questions that point out weaknesses of the misconception
-Present phenomena that don’t fit with misconception