Constructivism in the Military and a Hockey All-Star

I’m leaving for my yearly canoe trip today and will be gone until next week; but I wanted to leave you with this great post from Don Mesibov. –

The Institute for Learning Centered Education Newsletter is republished with permission from Don Mesibov.
Date: August 4 , 2008 Newsletter Edition: Volume 9, Issue 32

All Star goalie Ken Dryden has written books about education and spent a school year shadowing a middle school class in Ontario, Canada. Dryden wrote that education could be vastly improved if we adults just recognized that the way we learn and respond to teaching is the same way that children do.

This headline appeared in a local paper two weeks ago:

Training Troops: Enlisted Men Teach Future Officers Ropes

As I read the implications of this headline I realized that the military, like so many organizations in the private sector, does what it thinks will be most effective to help people learn. Research supports the fact that we learn best what we teach others. As adults, we know we learn best when we have to teach something to someone else – this is the common sense of which Ken Dryden writes.

As a teacher, the major shift in thinking I had to adapt was to plan in terms of focusing on what I want students to learn and then finding ways to get them to teach to each other that which I want them to learn.

The previous paragraph is a simple summary of a major shift in my thought process as a teacher. I started thinking this way twenty years ago and I apply this to every workshop I conduct and every class I teach. Teaching this way is not easy. I’m still learning and improving.

TEACHERS: if you try to increase the ways you strive to have students teach each other, be patient with yourselves. Start slowly; do it occasionally if this is not the way you usually teach.

ADMINISTRATORS: Recognize that this is not easy for teachers. If you agree that this is the best way to teach – by enabling students to teach each other while the teacher acts as coach, provide plenty of staff development. Encourage your teachers to increase their usage of students teaching students. Some teachers already do this quite a lot. Support and encourage them. Some teachers try this occasionally. Encourage them to increase the amount, but don’t hurry or pressure them.

When students teach each other they are motivated to learn, the active engagement gives them more meaningful learning experiences, and the ownership that accompanies the process of students teaching students allows and encourages students to take more responsibility for their learning.
Isn’t this what we want – students who are independent learners?

Many teachers have received woefully little staff development in any kind of teaching except teaching from the front of the room. Some haven’t even begun the journey. But many have and are somewhere on the continuum between teaching from the front of the room and conducting entirely student-run classes. As a profession, at least we’re heading in the right direction.

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Please feel free to forward this message to a friend or colleague. If you know someone who would like to be put on the list, please send a message to Don Mesibov at Requests to be dropped from this list will also be honored. Copyright (c) 2008, Institute for Learning Centered Education. All rights reserved.

The Institute is currently registering teams for the 2009 summer constructivist conference, July 20-24, at St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York. Don’t miss the opportunity for this unique conference that models the constructivist behaviors that teachers are using increasingly in the classroom. Check out the website of The Institute for Learning Centered Education:
or, e-mail a request for information.


4 thoughts on “Constructivism in the Military and a Hockey All-Star

  1. Hi Pete, first off I love the way you weave your many interests together to sustain your energies and that you share them– a yearly canoe trip sounds perfect!

    Also, today’s constructivist post seemed an appropriate time to share with you and express some more gratitude. Thanks to your bringing Gary Stager to the NYSCATE Metro Conference back in May, I attended his thoroughly constructivist Constructing Modern Knowledge conference in New Hampshire last week. I put together a brief video while there to showcase the rich explorations in learning with/through technology. Gary posted it to his site; perhaps you and your readers may be interested:

    Thanks for pointing out so many fruitful paths and wise guides. Enjoy the cool waters!

  2. ‘As a teacher, the major shift in thinking I had to adapt was to plan in terms of focusing on what I want students to learn and then finding ways to get them to teach to each other that which I want them to learn.’

    As a long standing English teacher your above statement expresses well my teaching philosophy. Students know that I rarely give long lectures in class. Rather I provide structures which enable them to teach each other.

    One of my favourite strategies is the group jigsaw where students become the experts and teach each other. Or the four corners debate which provides them with a statement and they choose a corner in the room: Strongly agree, agree, strongly disagree, disagree. It’s a great discussion starter and anticipates the lesson.

    We can never underestimate the power of structured student collaboration to facilitate learning.

  3. Michael,
    Thanks for the gratitude. You’ve heard the old saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” You are finding so many paths because you are ready to see them.

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