It has recently occurred to me that one reason why Constructivist classrooms appeal to so many people--including so many newspaper reporters--is because of their inherent selection bias.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Consider this. Only in certain types of classrooms can the Constructivist dream become a reality. Only in certain classrooms, that is, can you have groups of students spending so much of the day doing hands-on group activities without running up against either a shortage of materials or total chaos. And only certain teachers and principals have been trained in the methods and supposed virtues of Constructivist classrooms.
All the factors that favor Constructivism--small class sizes, well-behaved students, in-class parent volunteers, specially-trained teachers--correlate in turn with school district wealth, which correlates in turn with the socio-economic status of the families that enroll at the school.
And, as study after study has shown, high socio-economic status is correlated, independently of particular schools and their pedagogical practices, with academic achievement.
Thus, it's easy to connect the dots between Constructivism and academic success--and pleasant learning environments and compliant children and the crème de la crème of specially-trained teachers (those who win the opportunity to teach such desirable children in such desirable environments)--even though Constructivism per se cannot claim credit.
Meantime, with the majority of our inner-city students stuck with Reform Math programs in non-Constructivist classrooms, you've got the worst of both worlds: mindless filling out of poorly-sequenced, dumbed-down worksheets whose convoluted directions and nonstandard algorithms no one understands. Of course, in this case it's easy--way too easy--to blame everything but the curriculum.