Date: Aug 29, 1995 7:05 PM
Author: Ronald A Ward
Subject: constructivism forward #1

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 21 Aug 1995 15:41:35 -0500
To: Multiple recipients of list <>
Subject: constructivism in methods courses

My name is Dan Hirschhorn, and I am starting tomorrow to teach a secondary
methods course for the first time in a few years at Illinois State
University. I will be teaming with Roger Day in the teaching of the

First of all, if constructivism is correct, then no matter what or how we
teach the students will a) come in with some previous constructs of what it
means to teaching mathematics and b) fit the activities and information of
the course into those constructs or try to create or modify their
constructs to assimilate new ways of thinking. This is true whether we
lecture or use groups.

On the other hand, if we just lecture, then we get no idea into the
constructs that the students have upon entering the course. Plus, we are
uncomfortable lecturing anyway.

Ultimately we have to role model what we believe to be effective teaching
because we feel that it is effective teaching. Does teaching mathematics
require different pedagogies than teaching methods? I am a firm believer
that it does because I am a firm believer that you start with content
before choosing how you wish to teach that content.

In mathematics, you start with a piece of content and then think: is there
an activity which will help students understand the content? Does the new
content connect with previous lessons or previous years' knowledge? Does
technology help illustrate the content?

There is some content that we want as part of our methods courses:
planning lessons, talking about assessments and evaluations, setting goals,
looking at mathematics as a teacher instead of a learner ... . We also
want to know what the students think about these issues coming into the
course. Or if they are thinking about them at all.

Tommorow is the first day of class. At the end of the day, we are going to
give students a typical 1st year teacher schedule with simply the course
title of 5 courses (2 or 3 preps), number of students in the class, and
grade level. There are 4 different schedules we are creating A, B, C, D.
They will get the following instructions:

Congratulations! You just got a job! You will begin teaching on Monday,
August 28th, 1995. Your teaching assignment is printed on the reverse side
of this card.
1) What are your initial reactions to this schedule?
2) What questions do you have concerning your classes?
3) What more information would you like to plan these courses?
4) What problems in teaching these classes do you anticipate?
5) What decisions will be of top priority as you prepare for the semester?

They will come into day 2 of the class with 2-3 pages answering these
questions and then we'll split them into groups of 4 to discuss.

We are hoping to get at some of the conceptions that they enter the class
with, and we may revise the syllabus depending on what the students think
is important vs. what we think is important.

Anyway, I'm happy to report on this and other things I notice as I teach
the course through this list.


Daniel B. Hirschhorn | ISU Mathematics | 313 Stevenson Hall
(309) 438-7849 | Normal, IL 61790-4520