Contextual and constructive learning

The educationists around the globe are constantly searching for newer techniques that lead to holistic learning. One of them is contextual learning. 

What is Contextual learning? 

Contextual learning takes place when a context is presented to the students. Dictionary defines a context as the parts of a written or spoken statement that precede or follow a specific word or passage, usually influencing its meaning or effect. e.g. 1. The word “read” can have two different meanings depending upon what words are around it. 

  • ·  The gentleman is a well-read person 
  • ·  The book needs to be read. 

When the teachers present information to the students in such a way that each student is able to derive meaning from it based on their experiences, it can be referred to as contextual learning. 

Contextual learning is based on a constructivist theory of teaching and learning. The constructivist teacher provides techniques such as problem-solving, learning by doing and inquiry-based learning activities. Teacher helps students to test their ideas, draw conclusions and inferences in a collaborative learning environment. Constructivism transforms the student from a passive recipient of information to an active participant in the learning process. 

What is the difference between a traditional classroom and a constructivism classroom? 

Traditional classroomConstructivist Classroom
Strict adherence to fixed curriculum is highly valuedPursuit of student questions and interests is valued.
Learning is based on repetition. Learning is interactive, building on what the student already knows. 
Teachers disseminate information to students; students are recipients of knowledge. Teachers have a dialogue with students, helping students construct their own knowledge. 
Teacher’s role is directive, rooted in authority. Teacher’s role is interactive, rooted in negotiation. 
Students work primarily aloneStudents work collaboratively 

Constructivist theory of teaching and learning – CTL 

Constructivism is fundamentally a theory – based on observation and scientific study – about how people learn. 

There are two kinds of constructivism: Cognitive and Social constructivism. 

Cognitive constructivism is propounded by Swiss biologist and psychologist Jean Piaget. According to him, Children save their knowledge as ‘Schemas’ which contain all the knowledge, relationships, descriptors, experiences and memories. The learning happens by way of assimilation and accommodation. e. g. A child seeing a zebra for the first time and calls it a horse. The child assimilates this information into his/her idea for a horse. When the child accommodates information, she takes into consideration the different properties of a zebra compared to a horse, perhaps calling a zebra a horse with stripes. When she eventually learns the name of zebra, she has accommodated this information. A two year old’s idea of a tree can be that it is “green and big with bark” – over time the child adds information (some trees lose their leaves, some trees have names, we use a tree at Christmas, etc.) This is accommodation. 

Social constructivism is propounded by Vygotsky. Vygotsky emphasized the role of language and culture in cognitive development. He said that both language and culture play essential roles in human intellectual development and in how humans perceive the world. Therefore, to be effective, a teacher must help the student in discovering his or her own meaning. 

The contextual aspect of CTL embraces the proposition that learning should take place in many sites, or multiple contexts, not just in classrooms. 

Planning CTL 

G – Goal – Establish the goal, problem, challenge, or obstacle in the task, the purpose of the task. 

R – Role – Define the role of the students in the task – for instance is it going to be collaborative learning, pair work, group work etc – make the groups / permit them to form groups. 

A – Audience- Identify the target audience – to whom is the task directed to – To which grade 

S- Situation – Explain the situation – Inform the students what is given and what they need to research and how they need to present it. What should be the material used, what would be the font size of the written matter, how many pages should it be, etc. 

P- Product – Clarify to the students what they will create and why they will create it. – If it is a project / assignment – why they would create it / what it should look like. 

S- Standards – Provide students with specific criteria for assessment. – Content, presentation – written and oral and so on. 

Some techniques of Contextual learning are: 

Pair work, Group work,  Discussion, Role play, Assignments 

Projects,  Oral and written compositions, Field trips,  Debate , Flipped Learning 

A few examples of Contextual learning: 

Set 1 – Upper Primary 

Green Revolution and Geography:
· Design a Project on ‘Agriculture’ and its importance in India”. – Group work 

Green Revolution and Environmental Science 

  • ·  Write a dialogue between you and a farmer highlighting the need for organic products in India. 
  • ·  Green Revolution renders the soil infertile. Discuss – Debate 

Green Revolution and Civics
· Make a PPT on the various programmes and policies of the Govt. of India to 

ensure food security in India – Pair work 

Green Revolution and Mathematics
· Prepare a scrap book representing the statistics of Agriculture in India since 

1960s using statistical tools like Bar charts, Pie diagrams, Graphs – Research, can be used as flipped learning content. 

Green Revolution and Science
· Pest control – Its Advantages and disadvantages – Project work 

Set 2 – Primary 

Insects and Science
· Which is the most industrious insect? What is the learning for Human beings from this? – Role play 

Insects & Geography
· Which are the insects that are native to the region? – Field trip, Research and 

PPT – pair work / group work 

Insects & Literature
· Descriptive essays on the ant colonies – highlighting the work values, Story writing Insects & Life Skills 

· Co-operative living, Team work, Industriousness – Project work 

CTL gives meaning to the learning and helps the students to retain the concepts better. A varying stimulus by way of different techniques and collaborative learning maintains the interest and curiosity level of the students. 

To conclude “We must teach the way students learn”. Pedro Nogeura, Professor of Education, NYU. 

Published by Dr. Pramila Kudva

I am a teacher educator currently worrking as a Principal of a reputed school in North Mumbai, have more than 30 years of experience, with several publications to my credit and have authored a book -"From chalk to Talk The Art of Teaching.

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