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Balancing individual and the group: a dilemma for the constructivist teacher

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In this paper I explore an instance from my own elementary school science teaching. The goal of this teaching is constructivist in nature. The children explore the science together and through conversation with each other and with the teacher construct meaning. The individuality of the child and the individual`s abilities to work within a group are both extremely important to the workings of this type of class. Maintaining both of these facets of the classroom environment- where children can act as individuals but also as part of a group- is often contradictory and always filled with tension for the teacher. The role of the teacher is to maintain this tension and to do so in such a manner that it remains both a progressive force and a creative one in learning. This role presents a number of dilemmas for the teacher- how to construct these experiences so that all children can participate and contribute, how to reward both individual and group actions, and how to maintain control in a classroom where freedom is important. I present an argument in this paper describing why these dilemmas must remain unresolved in the class- it is the tension between the individual and group needs and desires that causes the classroom to act as a community. Individuals need each other and the group for the development and enhancement of ideas. Maintaining individuality is a source of creativity balanced by the considered evaluation of the group. But these two forces also potentially are at odds. Balancing the two falls to the teacher as does maintaining the tension between them.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 1997

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