Applying Constructivisim: Asana Example

Introduction

In this example, I’ll be adding onto my behaviorism learning scenario and add an additional learning objective in which Constructivism is the primary learning theory that drives the activity. Constructivism focuses on students taking an active role in learning and developing new knowledge related to their existing knowledge, often through collaboration. I will also be describing the skills in the Zone of Proximal Development. Finally, I’ll discuss a scaffolding strategy and a social constructivist strategy to help learners take an active role in constructing their own knowledge.

In the initial scenario, students were taught a sequence of exercises, presumably through video or written instruction, and demonstrated understanding through an online quiz. Automated verbal feedback was provided with each answer and in the final evaluation. However, there was no social interaction or reflection on the student’s own experiences and was devoid of any constructivist approach.

A Change in Key Assumptions

A key assumption of constructivism is that what the student currently believes, whether correct or incorrect, is important. As a yoga teacher, I know that a student’s understanding of their own body is just as, if not more important than the poses and sequences I teach. Therefore, I would want to add to my asana example with a way for the student to reflect on their own experiences with the poses and sequence, where they can challenge and even reject the new information if it challenges their prior knowledge. In turn, I would respond to and have a dialog with the student regarding their approach. I have undergone yoga training where the word of the teacher was not to be questioned; they were the “expert” and I was supposed to be an empty vessel to pour knowledge into. However, I have seen over the years that there every body is different, and to teach and practice safely, we ought to provide an environment where a student feels safe to challenge the status quo. In constructivism, both the teacher and student should think of knowledge as a dynamic, ever-changing view of the world we live in and the ability to successfully stretch and explore that view, not as inert facts to be memorized.

Utilizing Scaffolding

In this scenario, I will not refer to the Zone of Proximal Development with a metric of age, as we see in Vygotsky’s papers. Instead, let’s think of the student’s ability to enter a pose the way it was originally taught. There may be a number of reasons why they cannot enter the pose: they do not fully understand the cues or the transitions, their range of motion does not have access to the pose, or their skeletal structure cannot replicate the pose, to name a few. I can use a scaffolding with a social constructivist strategy to help the learner take an active role in constructing their own knowledge.

Processes that aid effective scaffolding:

  • Gain and maintain the learner’s interest in the task: Engage the student in a verbal dialog with their own evaluation of the practice.
  • Make the task simple: Understand the student’s range of motion and how far they can go in the pose or sequence.
  • Emphasize certain aspects that will help with the solution: Supply modifications within the pose or sequence.
  • Control the student’s level of frustration: Make it abundantly clear that modifications are normal and necessary for most practitioner’s of yoga.
  • Demonstrate the task: Provide the same visual references for the modifications as I did in the curriculum that demonstrated the original poses and sequence.

Equity-Focused Design

While this approach is effective, it has not been designed inclusively. Rather, the original curriculum should have included a reference to modifications. Inclusive design thinks about benefiting everyone from the beginning, not as an afterthought. Therefore, modifications to the poses and sequence should be presented with the original curriculum. This does not change the scaffolding exercise. The dialog can still be included because there are as many bodies as there are people, and a modification for one person may still need to be adjusted for another.

Social Constructivist Strategy

To apply this learning experience with a social constructivist strategy, the students could break out into groups of 2 and teach each other what they have learned. They can take turns leading, applying four cognitive strategies:

  1. Questioning: Start by asking or evaluating if the other student needs adjustments.
  2. Summarizing: Teaching the sequence as the student follows their instruction.
  3. Clarifying: Adjusting their teaching based on cues they may notice in the other student.
  4. Predicting: Based on the feedback they have received from the other student, either in the initial questioning phase or by noticing their depth of range in their practice, adjust the sequence as appropriate.

This creates a zone of proximal development where students gradually assume more responsibility for material through collaboration, forging group expectations for high-level thinking and acquiring knowledge that is vital for their learning and success in everyday life and the practice.

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