(insert theory here)-ist practitioner

To be honest, I groaned when I saw that part of my course investigation this week centered around Constructivism. I have a constructivist colleague who talks about it like its the best thing since sliced bread and condescends about her “behaviorist” department cohorts. Indeed, some of the things she does are good teaching and kids learns, but kids also are learning well from her colleagues–which makes me wonder if their success comes more from relationship-building and the developmental levels and intrinsic motivation of the students, more than “the teaching theory” used.

Personally, my experience with a constructivist teacher at the university-level in the past was more frustrating/infuriating than helpful. It felt like it was an excuse for the instructor to pan off their lesson planning on the students by making run every class and presentation, under the guise of constructivism.

Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of good things about the theory too, some of which I share in my own philosophy, such as student-centered learning. The article I annotated this week actually made me retract my fangs a little bit on the topic (whereas the Thomas chapter seemed to push my buttons a little bit, reminding of those instructors I know who have a superior air concerning the theory.) Of the 12 descriptors in my article, I probably subscribe to 11 of them. Does this label me as a Constructivist? Nah, I’m sure that I also agree with large parts of other big learning theories too.

So, given these experiences and the additional research I’ve done on Constructivism (just to be sure I’m understanding it correctly), as a librarian, do I feel it’s important to operate under this or similar theories? Perhaps, yes, because your instructional style and philosophy should be informed by theory and best practice, however, not to the point that you are jumping on a bandwagon of the “next big thing.” Like fad dieting, I feel like it just isn’t going to end well, no matter how good your intentions. Instead, everything in moderation–for teaching and dieting.

To me, labeling yourself as a (insert theory here)-ist practitioner isn’t important. In fact, sticking to one approach actually could be negative if your approach excludes the learning style of some of your students. One-size-never-fits-all, I’m sorry. During my other Master’s program for Teaching ESL, the big theories in that program were “inductive learning” and “task-based language teaching.” After a while, I resented the expectation that these were being presented as the “only way” to teach things well. If this were a T/F question on an exam (i.e. The ONLY way to teach is to follow X theory…), the “ONLY” would tip most of us off that the answer is false. Why would teaching be any different?

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