A Critique of the contribution of Constructive learning approach to the development of critical thinking
The acquisition of critical thinking skills by the learners is important if learners are going to face challenges posed by the many changes taking place in the society. Many instructional approaches have been employed in an attempt to ensure that learners acquire the essential critical thinking skills. Traditional learning approaches which are teacher-dominated emphasize on the acquisition of a set of skills which can be transferred from the teacher to the learner. Progressive approaches to learning emphasize on learner –centeredness where learners are involved in constructing knowledge; a process that eventually leads to development of critical thinking. A striking characteristic of constructivist learning is learner autonomy whereby learners are believed to be constructors of knowledge as opposed to recipients. It is often assumed that learner autonomy can lead to development of critical thinking by learners. However, research findings indicated that this is not necessarily the case and that the use of constructivism by teachers does not necessarily lead to improvement of critical thinking. This research sought to explain this paradox by investigating the relationship between constructivist pedagogical approaches and the development of critical thinking. This research also sought the find out the role of the teacher in constructivist learning and to investigate the pedagogical approaches and classroom practices that make the development of critical thinking fail. Two philosophical methods of inquiry were employed in this study i.e. the critical method and philosophical analysis. The critical method was used to launch a critique on various classrooms practices associated with constructivism in order find out whether they lead to critical thinking, as it is often assumed. The analytic method was used to arrive at a better understanding of educational terms associated with constructivism and critical thinking. The study found that constructivist teachers must deliberately organize their teaching in such a way that it leads to critical thinking. Learner autonomy perse cannot lead to critical thinking unless the teacher ensures that the learning process has activities and content that will help in the development of critical thinking. The role of the constructivist teacher was emphasized on in the organization of tasks and assignments who should ensure that in the process of performing these tasks, the learners acquire critical thinking skills.The study recommended that if teachers were to effectively use constructivist learning approaches certain measures need to be put in place: teachers need to be trained during preservice on the use of constructivist approaches; and teachers need to be aware of how to design classroom tasks and assignments so that their performance leads to learners becoming critical thinkers. Attention also needs to be paid to the design of the curriculum so that the objectives do not only deal with lower order thinking but should encompass even higher order tasks such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Assessment procedures also ought to be re-examined to ensure that they do not emphasize on reproduction of learned knowledge. Value–based questions could be used to ensure that learners relate the knowledge they acquire to real life situations.