Constructivism in Multicultural Education
Constructivism is a common teaching method used in many adult learning scenarios. This method requires the learner to engage in active experience followed by reflection and discussion about the experience to build knowledge. Subjects as abstract as culture are best learned through this model where the learner may build an awareness rather than a prescriptive list of learned facts. Constructivism was used to engage students in a college course at Texas A&M to develop their multicultural education. In the fall of 2015, five students enrolled in ALEC 644- The Agricultural Advisor in Developing Nations, and were educated on issues in international development. The course required these students to develop a catalog of case studies documenting incidents encountered with professionals and volunteers in development while abroad. Collaboration was a key element to the success of this project, as the students worked together to bring in 15 presenters to discuss their personal experiences in international development and a critical problem they encountered within their work. The students engaged with each presenter about a situation they encountered and discussed possible scenarios. As a group they reflected upon the incident and tried to arrive at the most effective and ethical solution to the incident at hand. The use of constructivist methods in this situation proved to be particularly effective at creating awareness of how culture impacts a situation both directly and indirectly. This provided an important skill set to these students seeking employment in the international development sector. The practice of learning through experience and reflection better prepares them to consult in sensitive situations, where many influential factors may not be obvious to an individual whose knowledge is not built on a foundation of diverse experiences.The effectiveness of the method can be observed in the final class product, the case study catalog, and the personal growth of the students in the course.