Academic journal article Education

Assessment of Achievement and Personal Qualities under Constructionist Learning Environment

Academic journal article Education

Assessment of Achievement and Personal Qualities under Constructionist Learning Environment

Article excerpt

Behavioral psychology was a dominant influence on education for many years (Druin & Solomon, 1996; Tullavantana, 2002). According to the behaviorist viewpoint, teachers are the disseminators of information and students are passive recipients of the knowledge that teachers impart (Hay & Barab, 2001; Tullavantana, 2002).

During the 1970s, the prominence of behavioral psychology declined giving way to the rapid increase of cognitive psychology (Gosling & Craik, 1999). Cognitivism emphasizes the learning processes in the minds of students. One cognitive learning theory, constructivism (proposed by Jean Piaget), argues that knowledge is not transmitted from teachers to students, but constructed by students themselves when they interact with their environment (Bjorklund, 1995: Guzdial, 1997; Stager, 2001).

Constructionism, another cognitive learning theory, was invented by Seymour Papert, professor of learning research at the Media Laboratory of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Guzdial, 1997). Constructionism goes a step further than constructivism (Druin & Solomon, 1996; Petcharuksa, 2001; Tullavantana, 2002). It asserts that students are particularly likely to form new ideas and construct knowledge when they engage in building and manipulating objects or making products by themselves (Guzdial, 1997; Hay & Barab, 2001; Papert, 1980, 1984, 1993, 1999; Stager, 2001). Thus, while constructivism defines learning as the building of knowledge inside of one's head, constructionism suggests that the best way to ensure that such intellectual structures form is through the active construction of something outside of one's head--something tangible that others can see, critique, and possibly use (Guzdial, 1997; Stager, 2001). Social skill development is another benefit of learning through constructionism. Papert (1993) indicated that a constructionist learning environment also allows students to show, discuss, examine, and collaboratively reflect on the cognitive artifacts or products that they have created. This is how their content area knowledge, habits of mind, and social skills are developed (Hay & Barab, 2001; Stager, 2001).

In Thailand, there have been dramatic changes in education since the enactment of the National Education Act A.D. 1999. This act has introduced a new teaching style, shifting from teacher-centered to student-centered instruction. As a result, many schools have provided a constructionist learning environment for their students (Petcharuksa, 2001; Tullavantana, 2002). Among these schools, Darunsikkhalai School is the only full scale constuctionist school in Thailand that provides a totally project-based learning environment.

Darunsikkhalai School is a relatively new school that has used constructionism since its inception. It was established in November 2000, three years alter Seymour Papert came to Thailand to lead a series of workshop on constructionist learning. The school was established by King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi in collaboration with Suksapattana Foundation, Thaicom Foundation, and the Future of Learning Group at the Media Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Darunsikkhalai School, 2004). At the time of the study, the school had 23 students, ages 6-11. Each student was free to choose any project in which he or she was interested. The project time was from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every weekday for nine weeks. During this period of time, students had to work on the selected projects in separate groups. The students in each group worked closely together in making products, starting from making a working plan, searching information from various sources (e.g., the Internet, books, and knowledgeable people), designing products, and creating the products as planned. They learned from one another and helped solve problems that arose. An example of a student group project was the Natural Product project in which products such as fruit juice, herb ice-cream, and aroma candles were made. …

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