The Constructionists tell us that children learn best when we let them form their own theories about the world by making things. In contrast, the Instructionists tell us that children learn better when we-who-know tell them what the theories are.
I was always attracted by the idea of constructionism, but have not done a great job of implementing it in my parenting. Enter Jazz’s piano teacher.
Teacher : OK, Jazz, I wanted you play this song
Jazz (playing everything except that song) : tinkle tinkle. bong bong bong
Teacher : Oh that’s pretty, Jazz. How would it sound if you tinkle-bonged like this…
Jazz : tinkle bong bong bong. tinkle bong bong bong
Teacher : Very nice Jazz. Let’s write down your song. This is a stave, and you played a G, then an A and…
I was horrified at first. I found myself glancing at the clock and wondering how much I was paying to hear Jazz tinkle-bong around the keyboard with seemingly no structure to the lessons at all. Georgina couldn’t take it at all – she had to leave the room.
It’s about three months since I started this post and Jazz is doing really well. She is probably at about the same point in her study as she would have been if she had taken a more direct – instructionist – route except that she still loves playing the piano and she loves to compose.
It’s so easy, as a parent or a teacher, to fall into instructionist ways. It takes real discipline to stick with the less-disciplined constructionist approach. I hope I can do it and, if I do, I will be forever grateful to Jazz’s piano teacher for showing me the way.