Cognitivism to Connectivism: A Pedagogical Shift

Looking back on the beginning of my teaching career, my teaching pedagogy mirrored the way I was taught in high school. The majority of my teachers primarily taught using Cognitivism, which Ertmer and Newby describe as “knowledge acquisition is described as a mental activity that entails internal coding and structuring by the learner. The learner is viewed as a very active participant in the learning process.”  Because I was a successful student in high school, I enjoyed this method of teaching and it became my primary teaching method.

My teaching assignments are generally split between my Major and Minor, which are English and Math. For the purposes of this article I will focus on my Math teaching.

Generally speaking, my math teaching follows this schedule:

Introduce a new concept
Explain an example, slowly going over every step
Allow the students to try a question on their own
Rinse and repeat, increasing the difficulty of the questions
Once an understanding has been reached

I have always believed that this method of teaching is best for a Math class, but now I find myself wondering if there is a better method to teach students in 2018.

After completing my readings, one of the methods that I wish to integrate more into my Math classes is the foundation of Connectivism. George Simens describes it as “Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired. The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital.”

If I were to examine this more closely with the lens of a Math 9 course, I would frame it as such:

So many foundational ideas and learning concepts that are taught to students in class can be easily answered via a technology device. An iPhone gives a constant stream of new information given to our students in increasingly efficient ways. Do students need to know how to add and subtract fractions if Photo Math will do the question for them? Or is there a better way to spend our time teaching our students?

I do not know the answers to these questions yet, but I will continue to investigate as I ponder the switch from Cognitivism to Connectivism.

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4 thoughts on “Cognitivism to Connectivism: A Pedagogical Shift

  1. I think a good avenue for you to explorer is the work of Dan Meyer and his ideas with regards to math education. I’ve applied many of his concepts to science and many of his concepts when I was teaching math. It seemed to provide excellent results.

    http://blog.mrmeyer.com

    I also teach with the same general schedule as you. I try to mix things up on occasion but the comfort of the old routine is quite appealing. Some students have told me they enjoy the old routine as they know what to expect and have a sense of comfort knowing how things are going to go.

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  2. I almost feel like the consistency of math lessons going through these motions – I do example, we do, you do type format you’ve described is also almost a type of behaviorism. Students have come to know what to expect from a math class – and as Daniel describes above, some find comfort in that. I have found that when I try to break free of this routine in math it throws kids off – they have a hard time thinking of math in any way other than this. Having them come up with answers or theorems or writing problems instead of just solving them is a way to push kids to think about learning numbers and logical thinking in a different way – towards connectivism!

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  3. Generally speaking, my math teaching follows this schedule:

    Introduce a new concept
    Explain an example, slowly going over every step
    Allow the students to try a question on their own
    Rinse and repeat, increasing the difficulty of the questions
    Once an understanding has been reached

    The above was my approach to Math when I first began as an elementary classroom teacher. However, after a number of years with split classes, I needed to find a better way to cover the curriculum and meet the needs of my students. I now use a balanced approach, similar to Daily 5, for Math. Students participate in a rotation of Math activities, such as Mathletics, Math games, Math on my own, Math with Madame, etc. I organize them into groups based on their abilites and work with these groups during Guided Math instruction with me. I find this approach very helpful as I can work directly with students and plan mini-lessons to better suit their individual/group needs. It has definitely been a game-changer in my classroom!

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