Creating Disequilibrium: Building Confidence in Pre-Service Teachers Using Critically Engaging Constructivist Methods

Creating Disequilibrium: Building Confidence in Pre-Service Teachers Using Critically Engaging Constructivist Methods

Tisha Admire Duncan
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7823-9.ch025
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The purpose of this chapter is to explore how intentional course design and instructional methods used during pre-service learning can build confidence in pre-service teachers, as well as prepare students for real-world experiences and the realities of what being a teacher in today's classroom entails. The chapter will critically examine frameworks used and, in addition, incorporate the perspectives and experiences of the university instructor and pre-service teachers participating in a social studies methods course applying constructivist practices and learner-centered instruction while also addressing the question, How can teachers learn to create effective classroom communities that engage learners in productive, rich, critically based, learning experiences?
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This class made me branch out of my comfort zone as I had to learn how to teach the material not only to myself but to others as well. (student, 2016).

If the expectation is for teachers to “step out of their classrooms to be leaders as a part of their daily activities, then we must engage in curriculum changes at the preservice level where teacher development begins” (Katzenmeyer & Moller, 2009, p. 49). Knowledge is created every time a new concept is acquired, building upon one’s personal internal knowledge structures (Halpern, 2014). It is not enough to store information for recall, but rather, one must engage in the active, mental process of thinking in order to develop understanding.

Today’s teachers must be prepared to be both classroom researchers and expert collaborators who can learn from and share with one another the vast range of knowledge for teaching and infinitely diverse ways of learning which their students bring to the classroom (Darling-Hammond, 2006). Teachers are tasked with not only knowing the material to be presented, but also challenged to present it in such a way that multi-leveled students will understand. This charge to constantly create learning opportunities which foster analysis, inferencing, and evaluation to promote intellectual growth in others, requires educators to also possess the ability to think critically. Educational psychologist, Diane Halpern (2014) contends: “Critical thinking is more than merely thinking about your own thinking or making judgments and solving problems—it is effortful and consciously controlled. Critical thinking uses evidence and reasons and strives to overcome individual biases” (p.8).

Oftentimes within the field of education, the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956) such as remembering, understanding, and applying are referenced when creating student goals and learning objectives. These verbs and levels can be a valuable source for creating products or outcomes of lessons; however, students need explicit instruction, modeling, and experience with the processes of critical thinking in order to acquire the necessary skills for application. Traditionally, post-secondary schools have required students to absorb, recall, make decisions, solve problems and reflect without ever teaching them how to do so, under the assumption that adult learners already know “how to learn” (Halpern, 2014).

While there are various definitions, phrases, and examples associated with critical thinking, in his research Facione (2015) has generated the following expert consensus statement: “We understand critical thinking to be purposeful, self-regulatory judgment which results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and inference, as well as explanation of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations upon which that judgment is based” (p. 28). This statement aligns closely with the basis of the author’s desire to further enhance students’ ability to decide what to do or believe in a given context (Quitadamo, Faiola, Johnson, and Kurtz, 2008), most specifically related to teacher education. As a faculty member at a small, private, liberal arts women’s college, the opportunity to construct an academic setting where development of critical thinking could thrive in an interactive and personalized environment, proved to be one which resulted in both reflective and intellectual growth for students (Kurfiss, 1988).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Autonomy: The ability for a student to work independently, free from control or direction.

Emerging Adulthood: The phrase coined by Arnett, an age of instability for persons aged 18-25 where there is a focus on the following: feeling in-between adolescence and adulthood, self-focus, identity explorations, instability, and a broad sense of possibilities for the future.

Constructivist: The process of a student constructing his or her own knowledge rather than acquiring it from another person.

Learner-Centered: A style of learning where students are asked to focus on both what they are learning and how they are learning.

Self-Efficacy: From Bandura’s research, one’s belief or level of confidence to succeed in a specific situation or accomplish a task.

Disequilibrium: From Piaget’s theory, when there is an imbalance between what is understood and what is experienced.

Metacognition: One’s ability to have an awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes.

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