A case study of a school implementing a constructivist philosophy
Author(s)Brown, Joseph C
Professional learning communities
Arts and Humanities
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AbstractIsaacson's (2004) dissertation chronicles the implementation of a constructivist instructional approach at Southwood Elementary School. Southwood's faculty experienced a change of principals, which the Tri-Partite Theory of Organizational Change and Succession, a theory of organizational entropy, predicts could lead to organizational entropy. This study examines the dynamics of the change in principal, as well as Isaacson's recommendation to study teachers' perceptions regarding the maintenance of the constructivist approach. This study answers three questions: 1) Are faculty still using constructivist strategies? 2) What are teacher perceptions regarding the maintenance and support of constructivist philosophy? 3) Is there congruence between what literature identifies as constructivist strategies and what teachers identify as constructivism and classroom practice? This study uses three sources. First, literature identified constructivist strategies and approaches. Second, teachers and principal were interviewed regarding an array of issues, such as their understanding constructivism, their perception of maintaining the constructivist philosophy, and student and teacher classroom roles. Third, classrooms were observed and scored using the Constructivist Teaching Inventory (CTI) as a rubric.The primary and an outside researcher identified four common themes that all support constructivist practices and philosophies: questioning, student-centered learning, active learning and the social influence on learning. Classroom observations, three for each of the interviewed teachers, were scored using the Constructivist Teaching Inventory.Southwood faculty and staff developed professional learning communities (PLC), which support and maintain constructivist strategies. PLCs are supports for new teachers in developing constructivist strategies. CTI results indicate that teachers are implementing constructivist strategies. Constructivist strategies could be impleme nted by telling teachers what to say or do, without understanding the why behind the actions. Although the principal, who initiated application of constructivist strategies retired and was replaced in 2004, constructivist strategies remain in use. The changes that occur with change in leadership, as predicted in the Tri-Partite Theory, were managed at Southwood by an internal replanning process of establishing PLCs. This study lends credence to the importance of professional learning communities as a constructivist change strategy, which finessed the entropy organizations face with leadership changes by establishing PLCs as a socialization process.