Constructivist v instructivist approach

I have started making crude summaries of some of the reading/listening I have been doing and do this on google docs so I have access to them everywhere. The latest book (What teachers need to know about teaching methods) & listening Why students don’t like school) have questioned some of the thinking behind the constructivist approach to teaching. Particularly it has suggested that for basic skills and fundamental knowledge a instructivist or teacher centred approach can be far more effective. Once this basic knowledge has been gained student centred, constructivist approaches can be effective at developing the ’21st century skills’ (which are not new skills but are becoming more and more important in this day and age such as collaboration and critical thinking). Neither suggest that one way is better than the other as such just that each method has a purpose and needs to be used to achieve appropriate goals.

Is there ever a case for using a constructivist approach to help learners understand fundamental knowledge?

I notice a lot of teachers will use a range of methods which on the surface may not appear to be the most efficient method for the learning goals stated, but claim that the method engages students in their learning and so is therefore effective. They may be considered to be using constructivist approaches for teaching fundamental knowledge which apparently can be taught more effectively in a direct manner.

Eg: For road safety if I was looking at students developing an understanding of the major factors leading to accidents, a sample project may be to have students work in teams to research and create a presentation (movie, podcast, ppt etc) for teenagers about the major risk factors for having an accident. The time required would be significant and the quality of a number of the group presentations could quite possibly be relatively poor.

Am I better off developing my skills as a lecturer/presenter and delivering this myself to develop their fundamental knowledge around the area or can the collaborative approach be more powerful and engaging and help students develop a deeper understanding of the issue?

Should I combine the two approaches and always directly teach the essential, fundamental knowledge and then use the student centred approach to deepen their knowledge or is there justification for leaving them to their own devices in a well planned project and letting them discover this fundamental knowledge, even though this goes against the research based evidence?


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