Text Analysis in a Social Constructivist Classroom
by P.MOHANAN, KUTHUPARAMBA
What is a Text?
The word 'text' sually refers to written materials, like a story, novel etc. But it has a wider meaning in the classroom context. The text in the classroom need not always be a lengthyliterary piece like an essay or story. Any piece of material that can communicate or initiate discourse is a text. A message, a letter, a joke, an advertisement or anything that generates language can be used as a text in a classroom. It need not always be a written material. A cartoon, a picture, a film or any visual cue, or any audio piece can be a text provided it serves the purpose of communicating the desired message and can be used for generating and promoting linguistic accomplishments. In short a text is a material that ensures scope for process, observation, contextualisation, learning practice, collaborative enquiry, conceptualisation, divergent thinking, divergent constructs, divergent analysis and divergent conclusions. It should be something that accelerates knowledge construction through self reflection, peer interaction and teacher intervention.
What is Social Constructivism?
It refers to a learning theory that emphasises the significance of 'think-pair-share' activity in the process of meaning making. The learners construct knowledge rather than passively listen. Knowledge is socially and culturally constructed. It holds the view that 'ideas, language and concepts derived from interation with others structure, challenge and enhance or constrain thinking'.Constructivist teaching involves intelligence, creativity, responsiveness, spontaneity, accommodation, assimilation, active experimentation, refelective conceptualisation, inquisitive investigation, and the ability to restructure knowledge.
How is Social Constructivism different from traditional teaching methods?
Social constructivism discards the very idea that knowledge is ' a repertoire of behavioural responses to environmental stimulli'. It holds the view that knolwedge is socially construced, as a process of resolution of conflicts between prehension and transformation. Teaching is not mere transformation of ideas , and learning is not passive absorptiion promoted by repetition of positive reinforcement. It is an active, self directed process of assimilating and accomodating new interests to the existing cognitive structures. The traditional classrooms focus on gaining knowledge of facts, concepts and skills, transaction of a curriculum based on static and hierarchical grading, and teacher structured instruction. But social constructivism demands a process oriented rather than a content and product oriented facilitation ensuring active collaboration and effective thinking.
How to approach a Text?
The text, in a social construvist classroom, is a 'woven material' of ideas that helps the learner transmute his ideational experience into personal experience. The reader is not supposed to read the word but the world in a text, printed or visual. The learner's interactiion with the text should help him understand the plain sense at the primary stage of reading. He should decipher the text at letter, word and sentence level to get the general gist and the specific implication. The learner should not stop here. He should go further to understand the context, the author's biography, his'intentions', social and cultural background. He shoul view the text through diff erent cultural lenses. The third stage is to empathise. Here the reader evaluates the characters, their actions, the feelings they create, the different scenes that contribute to the establishment of the prominent and underlying idea, the settings etc. The next stage is to appreciate the text, the language used, the images presented, the rhythm, He analyses what the text 'does'. He notices the tone and persuasive elements, the patterns of thoughts expressed through the choice of language and the various structures that constitute meaning. The last stage is that of being creative. The learner must use the text to naturally and spontaneously produce or transfom into a new discourse. At this Generating Phase, the learner develops ability to prioratise plans,to use inventive thinking and to ceate high quality products.
The learner in a social construvist classroom is not a 'mute outsider' , but the author of his own understanding. He should be a critical reader who must :
- become a part of the writer's audience
- be objective and openminded
- consider the wrier's attitudes and goals
- develop personal point of view
- infer from information ,values, assumptions etc. certain patterns of elements,
- analyse the nature of the language, illustrations and thinking to arrive at his own conclusions
What should a teacher do?
A teacher in a social constructivist classroom is a facilitator who helps the learner bring his own experiences, values and backround in the evaluation of the text. His strategies are meant to promote learning process, cognitive depth, motivation and self-reliance. He creates the situation for the learner to be nique, complex and multidimensional. He challenges the learner's thinkig providing him with dynamic interaction tasks that can instil in him the feelings of competence and potentials.
He initiates activities that enable the learner extent his 'channel capacity' – the ability to process utterances, learn rules, recover them from memory and to use them easily and spontaneously. He adopts interactive strategies to make the learner autonomous and thus promote his cognitive, affective and psychomotor skills and knowledge.
A creative teacher knows ;
- clear statement of what the students need to learn
- multi-sensory resources
- activities for using the newly created knowledge
- collaborative techniques
- integrated assessment strategies
- how to broaden the range of high productivity
- classroom processes
- the significance of 'environmental incentive' and 'performance incentive'
'Learnng is creating awareness- social awareness, cultural awareness, ethnic awareness, critical consciousness, aesthetic awareness and inspiration.' The text should be a tool to enhance the 'self-charging system' that helps deveop 'insight formation.' Clarifying, predicting questioning,making deep analysis, comparing and contrasting, evaluating the conceps, higher order comparison, summarising and synthesising are some of the strategies that can be adopted in a classroom process.
Ultimately, the text in a social construtivist classroom is meant to improve innovation, promote sustainable development, create sense of exploration and expand creative horizons which will foster language emergence.