“Constructivism is a theory of knowledge that argues that humans generate knowledge and meaning from an interaction between their experiences and their ideas. It has influenced a number of disciplines, including psychology, sociology, education and the history of science.” (from Wikipedia)
Niagara University, my alma mater (one of them), believes in this Constructivism philosophy and builds its programming around it (if similar to when I was there). I can still remember that my learning of experiences occurred during the process of writing those reflective write-ups AFTER the experience, not during the ‘doing’ of them. And, I remember during the doing of them, you’re too busy doing! I still remember enjoying writing those reflections and taking the time to craft them just so, finding it really important to capture my feelings in relation to the activity. So, because I realized the value of reflection, it is no surprise that I continue to operate in this way.
As a recently retired educator and while teaching and learning are still fresh on my mind, I am now reflecting about the school district from whence I came. Because this District encouraged and motivated a culture of study, we read. We read professional books… on our own time for the purpose of honing our practice and following what the experts were saying. Sometimes a school would take on a book study choosing a book that was meaningful to the culture and population of that school, other times small groups would study a book that they felt had powerful ideas to what they were trying to accomplish. A book that came out of this experience was Leah Mermelstein’s book, Self-Directed Writers.
Now, of course we were reading it in school for the purpose of learning about this concept of self-direction, what it looked like, why it was important for our students to be self-directed, and how this author perceived this self-direction as opposed to being independent. She writes extensively about the difference between independence and self-direction. She explains what each looks like in a classroom and how teachers can shift their thinking and their practice to expect more of the latter and then she explains why she feels this important. In a nutshell, a student who is independent is one who has all the capabilities of finishing their work and then asks what to do next. A student who is self-directed has the capabilities of finishing his/her work, then makes decisions on what to do next on his own. There is a huge difference between the two.
Well, I loved the book and the concept of self-direction and felt it particularly thought-provoking since I could look back on all my years of teaching and think of whether I had provided and/or set up my classroom to promote this student behavior of self-direction. Or not. Then I thought about the child rearing days and evaluated my work, there.
As a car needs gas in which to run, so does a person need energy in which to accomplish what he/she wishes to accomplish. Where does that energy come from and I dare say, for me, it is this concept of self-direction that may be my answer. As responsible citizens and as responsible adults, we all know what we are supposed to do in life, but bringing that list, whatever YOUR list, bringing it to actualization is what I am talking about and is the challenge in retirement when you are really the force of your own identity.
As I continue pondering this notion, I will share my goals in an upcoming post for my first year ‘out of the gate’ (first year retired) as Leah suggests this as a routine one can do to facilitate their own self-direction. Stay tuned! And, for all WordPress writers and readers, you indeed have some of this self-direction I am talking about or you wouldn’t be on WordPress!
Two of my colleagues took this concept all the way to Beijing,China where they facilitated Professional Development to Larry’s school and brought THIS concept to the table! A big shout-out to my colleagues for the invite and the apparent success!