At Aurora we take the constructivist approach to learning. Children are not seen as a vessel to be filled with information, rather they come with prior knowledge to build on. With teacher guidance students construct their own knowledge. For example, when solving a math problem students are not given an algorithm to follow. Problems and questions are posed and children are asked to solve them in a way that works for their individual learning style. Teachers move children along a learning continuum towards efficiency.
How ’bout Them Apples?
For example, several young students are asked about a recent trip they took to an apple orchard. “If you visited three trees and picked two apples from each, how many apples would you have in your basket?”. The first student draws a picture of the whole scene and counts the apples she sees on her page. The second student pulls out some wooden cubes and lays down three pairs. The third students counts on her fingers. All three are valid ways for students to use their prior knowledge to draw a conclusion. As students develop, they will add more strategies to their bags of tricks and begin to differentiate about which of their strategies are most efficient.
Investigate, Discuss and Question
Constructivist learning is not one size fits all. It provides a scaffold to allow each student to come to understanding in his or her own way. Students in constructivist classrooms investigate, discuss, and question.
Showing Support and Encouraging Independence
Each Aurora classroom has teachers who understand the constructivist model and are encouraged to be independent and creative in responding to the needs of their independent and unique learners. In any classroom, you will see small groups of students engaged in any number of active, social activities designed to encourage exploration, discussion, and thinking. In an Aurora classroom, more often than not, the teacher’s answer will be, “What do you think?” It takes more time and usually leads to more questions. It also tells the student that she can be the one in charge of her learning. The teacher is showing support and encouraging independence; modeling how learners take charge of their own learning.
The student-centered, constructivist approach is everywhere in the Aurora experience. Seemingly every day there are any number of multifaceted projects under construction in one or more classrooms: hatching butterflies, gardening, building science experiments, integrating art, science and writing across curriculum. Teachers support each child’s next steps-encouraging risks with an understanding that it is the journey and not the destination wherein lies the learning.