Sunday, September 27, 2009

Constructivist vs. ARCS

Two Instructional Design Models are the constructivist theory and the ARCS theory. The constructivist theory is a student motivated approach to learning. Although the teacher guides them with the topics and goals, students are responsible for gaining the knowledge that ultimately means something powerful to them. Students reflect on their learning process, incorporate prior knowledge and decide what they will learn and how they will learn. I worked at an Expeditionary Learning school for three years which worked similarly. Students were required to design their own objectives for each class. As it was an outdoor education school, most classes involved a week long trip. Students had to incorporate all the standards required for that credit into the class they took. For example, for one quarter of English credit, students took a photojournalism class. They planned and prepared for the trip, wrote out all their journal prompts for the trip, collaborated on how the final published “newspaper” would look, and figured out how they would accomplish that goal. Each day in Bryce Canyon, students would complete all their writing assignments, edit and proofread others, and input all information into the laptop. One week after our return, students passed out their newspapers at the Community Gathering, and the assessment committee assessed their presentation, made sure the standards were met, and decided what grades were earned.
The ARCS method is more teacher-oriented. It is the responsibility of the teacher to grab the students’ attention, to show the relevance, and to instill confidence in order to receive satisfaction. This focuses mainly on motivating the students to learn. The goal here is to stimulate students so they walk in the room every day wanting to learn, yearning for information, ready to participate fully in the daily discussion. It is an affective approach to learning. This seems to be a more plausible theory for the typical public school, with 55 minute classes.
Although these theories differ, they are similar in that their goal is student success. They both value how students learn and what motivates them. Similarly, they both encourage students to take a more active role in their education.
Beginning Phase of ARCS Lesson
Julius Caesar Introduction
General characteristics of audience—15 year old regular education Sophomore students.
Prior knowledge – the themes from the story involve superstitions, loyalty, friendship, power, greed, and jealousy. They are also familiar with dramatic literary elements.
Demographics: most students come from middle to lower middle class households, many single parent households, many bilingual students.
Motivations: Motivating students to read Shakespeare is a challenge, especially since most read Romeo and Juliet their Freshmen year. Relevance is moot…that is until I preface it with: this is a story about gullibility, backstabbing, believing rumors and jealousy…kind of like high school.
Societal factors: General lack of importance placed on education and reading.
ARCS: Attention: agree/disagree statements
Have students decide whether or not they agree or disagree with specific statements geared toward the themes of the novel.
Example: 1) Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
2) Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.
Response is either in philosophical chairs or journal entries.
Relevance: Some of the relevance is the fact that it is a required reading for sophomore English students. But when we discuss the themes involved in the book, many students see that many ideas are still issues today.
Confidence: We read sections of the play at a time answering study guides as we go. We read out loud and study the difference between “British” English and “American” English.
Satisfaction: Many students feel great satisfaction having completed they play and most enjoy it. Activities included in this unit tend to increase the satisfaction as well.

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