What social constructivism means to me

I just had an interesting (somewhat heated) discussion with a librarian over an assignment designed to introduce students to print journals. Made me wonder if I could somehow convey how to create good library assignments.

I’m starting from the belief that people learn by making connections – from what they know to new knowledge (constructivism) and (but) learning is also social. Construct (active learning), Social (collaborative learning) and Motivation (the lubricant for learning, as one professor taught me).

But how does that translate to creating “good” (by my definition) learning environments in an information literacy setting?

Here’s my attempt:

  1. Start from where the student are. You’re trying to build connections between existing knowledge or ways of doing things and new ways. For us that means starting with Google as a search tool and the web as a source. Trying to introduce students to print journals? What is the closest analogy in a student’s world? Rolling Stone?
  2. How can the learning environment encourage collaboration? You find a print journal article and your partner finds a print journal article. How are they different? How are they the same? Why do you think they are similar / different?
  3. How can we encourage higher order thinking? Go to a web site and find information and paste it here doesn’t really cut it.
  4. What is the motivation for putting the effort into actually learning? If we concentrate on intrinsic motivators:
    • Explain or show why learning a particular content or skill is important
    • Create and/or maintain curiosity
    • Provide a variety of activities and sensory simulations
    • Provide games and simulations
    • Set goals for learning
    • Relate learning to student needs
    • Help student develop plan of action
      (from http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/motivation/motivate.html)
      probably the biggest “sticks” librarians have are the chance to connect the activity to a student need, explaining why it is important (or helping the student discover why it is important) and creating / maintaining curiosity. (why is the first hit in Google the first hit? why are library catalogues so crappy? who is the author or a wikipedia article?)

Is any of this covered in library training (she asks in dispair)?

Please comment


About Karen Keiller

I am the University Librarian at Lakehead University.
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