NCT Articles

Constructivism: A Key to Learn the English Language Effectively


Orlino Daguman Rabago     01-04-2014

I have been teaching English as a Second Language for eight years now. I started handling it in Philippine high school education for two yearsthen I transferred to a language school, and after a year I was asked to teach ESL in South Korea. During those years, I commonly do various methodologies and approaches that I learned frommy college years to provide to my students since most of them were just beginners in the English language. However, every time I did the assessment, still most of my students were having difficulties with their English language communication despite of my full effort and support. With this, I kept on looking and applying new approaches until I came to a point that I asked myself, ?Am I doing my best? Am I doing the right task? Do I teach effectively? However, instead of contemplating and surrendering, I asked some of my colleagues in the language school about it but of little help because they would just tell me of the same approaches and methodologies. And then, one day I bumped with one of the native speakers during our seminar in the language school. She is a Canadian citizen and her name is Juanita Tuharsky. I asked the same thing just to find a solution to the problem I was worrying about. Then she told me of one thing that I believed new to my ear. She said, ?Orly, I think you should try constructivism.? I replied, ?What is that?? She answered back, ?That?s Learning by Doing.? After that conversation, and to cut the long story short, every time I do the assessment of my students I usually get amazed with their outcomes.

What is constructivism?

Constructivism is a paradigm of teaching and learning which the learners are actively involved in the process. This approach makes the learners experience the actual process to enable them to acquire the necessary skills intended for. In the case of the English language, the learners are using the language more than the vernacular while inside the institution or school in which the concept of ?Learning by Doing? is applied. Traditionally, the teachers do most of the talking in the classroom while teaching the language. And in most cases, the focus is on structure rather than the application of the concept; hence, learners are learning only a fraction of the whole. Applying Edgar Dale?s Cone of Experience, learners learn more if they are engaged in the teaching-learning process. In this case, learners must do most of the talking in class, thus, teachers become the facilitators. More so, since language and/or communication is an acquired skill there should be a continuous learning and a constant practice,and self-reflection on the outcome to acquire such skill. This is the main point of constructivism.

Furthermore, Constructivism as a Philosophy of Education centers to the students. In a traditional way, teachers usually manipulate the teaching-learning process and they commonly involved students when needed only. However, in a constructivist perspective the learners are actively involved in the process, hence, it is a student-centered approach. Sometimes, constructivism is misunderstood by the teachers as a pedagogical technique in which students divert from the actual contents of the curriculum or the course. The truth is, they are not. Learners are just given the full task as the masters of their own but the focus is still on the set goals and objectives of the institution particularly when stated in the graduated attributes, or in the specific objectives set by the teachers based on the syllabi or curriculum.

What do we mean by Active Learning in a Constructivist Perspective?

Active learning involves activities that make the students do all the domains of learning, such as: Cognitive, Affective and Psychomotor. But the latter has the highest percentage of learners? concentration. Can you still remember when you were in college and learned about basketball or Volleyball in Physical Education? What happened then? Maybe you had learned the concept on how to play basketball or volleyball but without expertise. This is because there?s no concentration on the highest domain of learning. Let?s consider those greatest people in the field of sports. Why do you think they are very good at the thing they are doing? It?s because they constantly practice. Active learning therefore,pushes the learners to the highest domain to become experts and skilled people. Activities in the active learning can be survival English approach (Impromptu Communication), laboratory experiments, real-world problem solving, simulation, practice teaching or teaching demonstration, and a lot more approaches and methodologies thatconcentrate highlyon the psychomotor domain of learning.

What is the implication of Constructivism to NCT Community?

The Nizwa College of Technology must realize that English speaking policy,though part of the system is not yet fully realized by its people. In fact, most of the people here starting from the administration, to teaching and non-teaching staff, to ordinary workers, down to the students, English language seems part-time in nature. Honestly, most of us use our native languages during our free time (except the native speakers). What more to our beloved students?I believe you observed it yourselves. It doesn?t need a genius to understand the idea. Let us admit that we are not taking seriously the essence of constructivism ? ?Learning by Doing.?

According to language experts, to learn a new language one must allot at least 85% of his time to use that language. My point is that, we have to encourage and motivate our students to use the English language while they are at school. Even when they are in the canteen, or in the Self-Access Centre, or even when they are with their classmates they have to converse in English so that in that way practice is applied. Remember: ?Practice makes us perfect.?This culture must be inculcated to NCT community if we want to help them become competent and competitive. More so, this is our responsibility since it is implicitly stated in our Graduate Attributes ? to enhance the communication skills of our learners. Constructivism can be best attained in the institution (NCT)if the community, particularly the ELC will do it in a realistic point of view ? Experiential Learning.

Here are sometips for students on how to learn the English Language effectively:

1. Use English every time you are inside the school.

Practice makes you perfect?

2. Enhance your English through English reading materials available in the Self-Access Centre.

Savings makes profit?

3. Do exercises using various English materials from the library, websites and other sources.

Experience creates expertise?

4. Love English language as you love your vernacular.

Eagerness and Passion contribute to learning?

5. Enjoy what you are doing. Learning is best when you are happy on what you are doing.

People who learn the most are those who are enjoying what they are doing?

English is fun!