Science specialist Joyce Tate's teaching has evolved to have a distinctly constructivist flavor during 16 years in pre-K - 6 classrooms, even as she stresses mastery of specific content in her science labs.
is "somewhat" familiar with constructivism thanks to the Louisiana Systemic Initiatives Program (LaSIP), a state-sponsored professional development project that promotes science and mathematics curricular reform.
It could be argued that Joyce Tate
, Kimberly Bissell, and other teachers who use similar methods are practicing constructivists - whether they would give themselves that label or not.
One way Joyce Tate
elementary pupils that science is relevant to their everyday lives is by talking about their parents' professions.
If a student's parent works in a fast-food restaurant, the class discusses boiling point, heat intensity, and the importance of estimation, prediction, and accurate measurement in that job.
During a unit on small machines, parents who are mechanics come to Tate's lab to talk about the workings of levers and gears.
Tate's students also bring backyard soil samples and other items from home for lab sessions.
"The children get real excited.
They feel as though they have some kind of connection with science," Tate
applies this strategy when she
encourages students to think of themselves as scientists who can make significant discoveries in the laboratory.
"We find that science is changing daily and some of the things that we considered to be science gospel or the Facts have changed, and there may be other ways of looking at them.
I try to encourage this in the science lab," Tate
"When we first started, I noticed that a lot of the students would write their hypothesis and, if something didn't happen the way they thought it should have, they would change it.
They would erase the hypothesis, saying, 'Oh no!
This is wrong!
And I don't want anyone to see it!'"
Now, after an experiment or lesson, Tate
students if they found an unexpected result or if an aberrant sequence of events occurred.
"I've finally gotten them to see that this may be a new discovery," Tate
Where do they live, and what can they tell us about their community, so we can make comparisons to ours," Tate
At the school year's beginning, Tate
students to the row of cages and aquariums where the children see birds, fish, amphibians, and small mammals.
When asked, they say all the cages and tanks contain living things - except for one tank containing pond water.
"There's nothing alive in there," the children say, giving Tate
an opportunity to introduce the concept of microorganisms and begin lessons in the use of microscopes.
Bissell and Tate
are of two minds about assessment.
students should know how to take tests successfully - so much so that she
works this skill into her
But Bissell and Tate
also use select alternative assessment techniques in class to continuously obtain clear pictures of student learning.
During science labs Tate
invites students to draw up a KWL chart, where students list what they Know, what they Want to know, and, after the lesson, what they have Learned.
Since the students' KWL charts make the direction of their learning concrete, Tate
can more readily assess what students are learning while they're learning it.
Tate also tracks students' understanding of content by asking them to contribute one question to her
multiple-choice science quizzes.
And since the children love trying to stump their classmates, their quiz questions are often "far more challenging than what I would ask.
But the students are able to answer each other's questions," Tate
Bissell's students go beyond quiz-writing to assessing some of their classmates' assignments; a strategy she
picked up in SCIMAST training helps keep the grading fair.
and Bissell were interested to learn their SCIMAST training was rooted in constructivism, for SCIMAST specialists rarely trumpet the theoretical foundations of their professional development programs.