H – Honor student diversity, development and their right to learn.
H1 – Honor student diversity and development. Teacher candidates plan and/or adapt learner-centered curricula that engage students in a variety of culturally responsive, developmentally, and age appropriate strategies.
When honoring the diversity of our students, teachers should not only be cognizant of cultural and ethnic diversity, but also of the diverse intellectual standing of individuals. Students should be engaged in activities that reach varying levels of development. For example, Piaget’s four-stage theory provides a guideline of cognitive development of people from birth to adulthood, yet many students may not fall within a category appropriate for their age level. Some students may be extremely advanced while others may also be struggling with a wide range of disabilities. There are many ways to address diversified instruction and alternative constructivist approaches to teaching help promote practices that may help to reach a variety of learners.
As shown in Figure 1, you can summarize these approaches in three categories, endogenous constructivism, dialectical constructivism, and exogenous constructivism (Gritter, 2015; Pressley & McCormick, 2007).
Pressley & McCormick (2007) describe each approach in saying, “The endogenous constructivist educator endeavors…” or “The dialectical constructivist educator provides hints and prompts…” (p. 86). An instructor may choose to lean on one of these constructivist methods but should also embrace other methodologies to remain flexible for different learners. While each of these approaches in and of themselves may be beneficial to some, it would seem prudent to implement all three approaches into a practice to reach a wider population of students.
When further examining these three approaches it is relevant to argue that all three are useful and necessary in a classroom of diverse learners. Figure 2 summarizes a further breakdown of alternative constructivist approaches, defining the role of the teacher in each scenario. When understanding the developmental levels of students, regardless of their age and grade level, each approach may be sufficient. Some students may have the ability to tackle and solve challenging problems on their own while others may require further assistance.
It can be determined that through diversified instruction, the teacher is better able to accomplish all three approaches. Lessons can be designed in order to provide a difficult challenge to students, just beyond their current knowledge levels. Instruction can be scaffolded, allowing learners to continue to develop and enhance their skillsets. The teacher should employ these strategies understanding that the more a student can achieve without assistance, the better. This can be done by presenting the task to the class as a whole with encouragement (endogenous constructivism), providing hints and prompts to struggling students in the class (dialectical constructivism), and finally providing further assistance and more individualized instruction to those that are still not grasping the concepts (exogenous constructivism) (Pressley & McCormick, 2007).
Lastly, when employing these techniques, it is essential that the teacher get to know their individual students and understand each of their capabilities. This can be achieved at the beginning of the year through surveys, parent-teacher meetings, regular email correspondence, assessments, and conversations with the students themselves. Without knowing those with whom you are teaching, it is difficult to interpret who in fact needs additional help.
Gritter, K. (2015). Cognitive development through the Piagetian (or stage) perspective: Learners in context EDU 6132 module 3. Retrieved from Lecture Notes Online Web site: https://bbweb-prod.spu.edu/webapps/blackboard/execute/content/file?cmd=view&content_id=_1024882_1&course_id=_83989_1
Pressley, M., & McCormick, C. B. (2007). Child and adolescent development for educators. New York, London: The Guilford Press.