Monday, 22 December 2014

bridging constructivist and instructivist teaching strategies

A colleague forwarded this article to me awhile ago. It discusses the need to bridge traditional teaching strategies (instructor-centric) with more constructivist (student-centered) approaches and to ensure that there is a sound pedagogical basis for using educational technologies. That is, that the educational technology actually aids student learning.

It contains some really interesting conclusions about being careful to bridge instructivist and constructivist teaching approaches for students not yet familiar with taking responsibility for their own learning and also how students still seem to equate lectures with better learning/teaching as opposed to student-centered teaching strategies. That certainly confirms the experience I have had with the student evaluations for my courses that use team-based learning. But what is really interesting is that there is a seeming sweet spot. In my first and second year courses in which I used TBL all of the time, students wrote on the course evaluations a request for more lecturing. In contrast, when I used TBL for only a couple of course sections in my more senior biochemistry course, students indicated that more TBL activities would be appreciated.

Perhaps that also goes along with the conclusions in this paper by Venkatech et al that we, as instructors, need to vary the teaching strategies we use as necessary for the particular educational context and the particular student cohort. This is one of the things that makes teaching both interesting and difficult. A cookie-cutter approach is not appropriate. Rather, as instructors we must constantly engage the act of teaching at a metacognitive level to continually assess how we are teaching while we are teaching. We need to use the instant feedback we receive from our students while teaching to make adjustments on the fly. I think this is why I find online teaching difficult and unsatisfactory for myself - my teaching is too far removed from the act of learning that my students are experiencing. The instant feedback that I can sense while in the classroom is so delayed when teaching online. Mind you, I have never had the experience of teaching online in a synchronous environment. My suspicion, however, is that it would be like communicating with a friend or colleague through Skype or Google Talk - simply not the same thing as being in their physical presence while working through an issue.

For me, teaching is a physical, visceral experience, and it is difficult to do when disembodied.


Venkatesh V, Jedwab J, Rabah J, Thomas T, Varela W, Alexander K. 2013. From disconnected to connected: Insights into the Future of Distance Education and Web 2.0 Tools in Higher Education. Revue internationale des technologies en p├ędagogie universitaire ● International Journal of Technologies in Higher Education, 10(3): 6-13. Available at