Constructivism and At Risk Students

Experts in Engagement

In the three pieces I viewed (Robinson, Harris and Graham, and Woodul et Al) I consistently heard the message that a primary issue lies not within the students directly, but rather the fact that they do not feel engaged in their learning. Essentially, this is the key to making any learning stick: get the kids engaged. I really liked the quote from Harris and Graham at the start which stated that teachers are no longer teaching subjects, but teaching children. To go one step further, perhaps we could even say that the teacher is expected to foster an engagine learning environment (it just sounds less direct, but means the same thing). Like a comedian, the modern teacher must know how to read a crowd and respond to cues they send in a dynamic fashion. The teacher also needs to be able to balance expectations of the school board, the parents, themselves, and of course the students. It gets tricky, that is for sure. Once school boards relax their expectations, the other three parties generally feel a strong sense of fulfilment when engagement in high.

Diversity in Style and Product

The article by Harris and Graham really brought forth a strong feeling to me that we need to be a bit more open to embracing diversity in learning styles as well as teaching styles. Both the Endogenous and Exogenous constructivist forms seem to have space and sit comfortably in a learning environment, and in the discussion there was examples of how both of these can be beneficial to learning. I have seen teachers prosper as master storytellers, while others excel at creating a laboratory like feeling in the classroom. To allow these styles to co-exist and not prescribe one of the the other seems to me like a critical piece of how we need to look at the future of education.

Similarly we also need to be accepting of a wide range of products from our students. It is challenging to not compare, but all work has intrinsic value and all learners develop when engaged. To do this, we may need to elimiate some of the core tenets of education (Grades, Learning Outcomes, Standards). in lieu of this, we will need to have a well trained and dynamic cohort of educators ready for each day at work to be unique and never feel they have an established routine. This is part of the Finnish model Ken Robinson speaks of: educate teachers to high standards and let them prosper in a more open system.


Harris, K. R., & Graham, S. (1994). Constructivism: Principles, paradigms, and integration. The Journal of Special Education 28(3), 233-247. Retrieved from 

TedTalk, (2013). How to Escape Education’s Death Valley. Retrieved from 

Woodul, E. III, Vitale, M. R., Scott, B.J. (2000). Using a Cooperative Multimedia Learning Environment to Enhance Learning and Affective Self-Perceptions of At-Risk Students in Grade 8. Journal Of Educational Technology Systems, 28(3), 239-252. Retrieved from 

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