In gaining a better understanding of constructionism this last week, it became clear to me that the traditional school system would need to evolve or adapt new systems and policies for students to benefit from a constructionist approach. Not only that, teachers need a school infrastructure that supports them to integrate new pedagogies; teachers need time, resources, tools, and training, but they also need growth opportunities to try and test these new concepts and strategies. Constructionism seems an obvious theoretical foundation for tinkering, hard play, and the growth mindset, and all three have a place in the classroom, if teachers are able to integrate these ideas and strategies to make learning even more learner-centered, learner-owned, and learner-directed.
It should be a teacher’s goal for students to become independent thinkers and have the confidence to follow their instincts and explore their curiosities. A teacher who encourages and supports tinkering, allows students to arrive at an understanding and build knowledge, based on their own thought-process and experience “figuring it out”. It’s not a trial period, where students attempt to solve a problem on their own and then return to the teacher for the “right” answer, but an authentic journey to find meaning and gain understanding that will lead to a solution. By allowing students to test their ideas, we can support them to build the confidence needed to take ownership over their learning (Martinez & Stager, 2013).
Hard play can be an effective way to support tinkering; by presenting an authentic challenge or problem that is engaging, we demonstrate to students that learning is fun and can be experienced in a personally meaningful way. This focus on the student and their process and experience of learning and problem solving rather than the specific result or answer as an end goal, leads us to the growth mindset. Rather than being focused on a grade to measure their level of intelligence, students are trained to build their skills and develop a better understanding of how they learn (Mindset Works, Inc., 2012).
It is incredibly discouraging for students to be labeled or categorized and to not have others expect valuable contributions from them; at the same time, even positive labels can sometimes lead students to only identify with that recognition and cease to pursue other things. Teachers can instead, acknowledge characteristics that have been specifically demonstrated and guide students to establish their own identity as a learner based on what students themselves value and have experienced. Research on the growth mindset (Mindset Works, Inc., 2012) has shown that:
- intelligence can be developed and students can be trained to adopt a growth mindset,
- students are more motivated to learn, make effort, and outperform others without the same mindset,
- students increased self-perception and narrowed gender and racial achievement gaps, and
- students improve their behavior, achievement levels, and begin to demonstrate resiliency in dealing with challenges
Tinkering, hard play, and the growth mindset are ideas and strategies that are focused on the learners. They allow learners to self-direct their learning and take ownership over the process and products of their learning. Learners can create their own learning identities and improve their abilities, but also have the freedom to grow and evolve through the process. As a teacher, it would be difficult to support and integrate these ideas and strategies, if one isn’t first engaging in them. We can do this by modeling to students that learning is a lifelong process and a (growth) mindset that develops, shifts, and evolves with various experiences (with tinkering and hard play).
Watch this short TED talk about The Tinkering School and the value of an experience in “fooling around”:
I wish I was going to Tinkering School this summer, but this course is a pretty good second choice! 🙂
Martinez, S. L. and Stager, G. S. (2013-05-10). Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom (Kindle). Constructing Modern Knowledge Press. Kindle Edition.
Mindset Works, Inc. (2012). The Science: The Growth Mindset. Retrieved from: https://www.mindsetworks.com/webnav/whatismindset.aspx
Tulley, G. (2009). Life lessons through tinkering. [Video]. TED Conferences, LLC. Retrieved from: http://www.ted.com/talks/gever_tulley_s_tinkering_school_in_action