Using the Constructivist Approach in Family & Consumer Sciences

Vol. 18, No. 2
ISSN: 1546-2676

Guest Editor:
Jacquelyn W. Jensen

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Kappa Omicron Nu FORUM, Vol. 18, No. 2. 
1546-2676. Editor: Dorothy I. Mitstifer. Official publication of Kappa Omicron Nu National Honor Society. Member, Association of College Honor Societies. Copyright © 2009. Kappa Omicron Nu FORUM is a refereed, semi-annual publication serving the profession of family and consumer sciences. The opinions expressed by the authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of the society. Further information: Kappa Omicron Nu, PO Box 798, Okemos, MI 48805-0798. Telephone: (727) 940-2658 ext. 2003

Interested in submitting an article to KON FORUM? Papers are now being accepted for review.


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Kappa Omicron Nu


From the Guest Editor

Constructivism has come a long way since the paradigm wars of the last few decades. Many education researchers realize the advantages of synthesizing the instructional implications of cognitive and social learning theory approaches.

The development of socially shared meanings can come about when instructors check for understanding and select teaching strategies and interventions that build on students' understandings. Checking for understanding and increased strategic use of four concepts are means for creating a "constructivist" learning environment. The concepts include (a) using student prior knowledge, (b) teacher-student and student-student interaction, (c) active learning, and (d) authentic tasks or real life applications. In my study of classroom teaching I have filmed many middle school, high school, and university lessons. There are many more one-hour clips where instructors have used a couple of these concepts rather than all four of them. From my perspective, the most important principle is that the instructor reflects on instruction and asks, "How can I use one or more of these concepts to increase understanding?" There are times when it is appropriate, based on the lesson purpose, to use fewer of these concepts in planning instruction.

Thanks go to the authors who have delineated in this issue highly contextualized accounts of constructivist approaches. Many more examples within FCS are needed so that we have a basis for comparison and critique.

Jackie Jensen




Table of Contents

Student Teaching: A Constructivist Context

Cheryl Mimbs-Johnson, University of Kentucky

Abstract: This study examines the student teaching experience and the process of becoming reflective practitioners as a constructivist context. The journal entries were examined for evidence of transformed practice as a result of their reflections on open-ended prompts over 4 intervals throughout their student teaching experience. Evidence of the pre-service teachers’ critical science curricular orientation is shared.

Laying the Foundation for Professional Competence in Family and Consumer Sciences: A Contructivist Approach

Barbara A. Clauss, Indiana State University

Abstract: Constructivist approaches engage learners and help them develop the cognitive skills they need for professional employment. The case study assignment in a family and consumer sciences departmental core course is a constructivist approach that prepares students for complex tasks in advanced courses and career positions.

An Example of Constructivism in FCS Teacher Education

Jacquelyn W. Jensen, Eastern Kentucky University
Maxine L. Rowley ,Brigham Young University

Abstract: This study portrays a family and consumer sciences (FCS) teacher educator using constructivist theories to guide instruction within a teaching methods course. Specifically, a 1 1/2-hour lesson on assessing students’ prior knowledge was the focus of the study. Instruments for the study included a videotape of the lesson and field notes. The dominant instructional strategies utilized during the lesson included discussion, experiential learning, stories, examples, and multiple knowledge representations. Connections between the instructional strategies and constructivist theories are highlighted.

Constructivist Learning Theory in an Interior Design Program

Candace Fox
Mount Vernon Nazarene University

Abstract: This paper documents one professor’s struggle to use constructivist learning theory to guide instruction in an interior design program. Family and consumer sciences teacher education candidates are also enrolled in the courses, affording them the opportunity to observe and experience the teacher’s modeling of the approach. Constructivist-oriented teaching emphasizes the learner’s active participation, which differs from the behaviorist approach that is more familiar to students.

Application of Constructivism by Students Majoring in Early Childhood Education

Jaesook L. Gilbert
Northern Kentucky University

Abstract: According to literature (e.g., Barab & Duffy, 2000; Baxter Magolda, 2004; Brooks & Brooks, 1999; Chen, Chung, Crane, Hlavach, Pierce, & Viall, 2001; Duffy & Cunningham, 1996; Phillips, 2000), constructive education means authentic and meaningful experiences, active engagement of the learner with the learning environment, focusing on the learner not the teacher, and acknowledging (as well as challenging) learners’ understanding/intellectual development. This paper will provide an overview of how constructivism in “all of its glory” with an implementation of constructivist education pedagogy requirement is introduced to university students (hereinafter, students) enrolled in an early childhood development and program planning course. In addition, this paper will provide examples of group projects as well as address the difficulties students experience in their application of constructivist pedagogy.

Reflections on Using Constructivist Techniques to Teach Constructivist Teaching

Gale Smith
University of British Columbia

Abstract: Airasian and Walsh (1997) claim that there is no “instruction of constructivism.” Generally, however, methods and teaching strategies that emphasize active student participation in the learning process are considered to be essential to a constructivist approach. A common complain from students enrolled in teacher education programs is that university instructors do not “practice what they preach.” In other words, constructivism as an epistemology of learning is often promoted but not experienced in teacher education courses. As an instructor of home economics curriculum and instruction and principles of teaching courses, I have tried to model the use of constructivist methods in my teaching of pre-service teachers. In this paper I will elaborate the methods used, explain modifications made over the years, and identify some of the enduring challenges and concerns that arise in attempting to implement constructivism in practical, classroom settings.



Last Word

Dorothy I. Mitstifer
Kappa Omicron Nu

This volume of Kappa Omicron Nu FORUM serves family and consumer sciences (FCS) teacher educators but also contributes to the overall practice of teaching. It explores active learning practices that are appropriate at all levels of education and all specializations. These authors should be applauded for examining process and product. We encourage others to share their work—their approaches and outcomes—so that we can learn from them.

Although we know that teaching is a personal activity, policies and support systems to enable quality teaching are needed to achieve that objective. In 2008, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in collaboration with 29 institutions in 20 countries, initiated a study to determine the diversity of initiatives and the different responses of institutions. The study found, among other things, that quality teaching at the university level is based upon the following basic assumptions (

  • The university’s local environment shapes the commitment to quality teaching.
  • The commitment of a university’s top leadership is necessary for success.
  • Bottom-up initiatives from faculty members establish the learning and teaching environment, provide support, and stimulate reflection—all of which contribute to quality teaching.
  • Sufficient funding and adequate facilities are available on a long-term basis.
  • Deans encourage cross-fertilization of approaches, build and support communities of practice, and nurture innovation in everyday practice in the classroom.
  • Institution polices provide a balance between technical aspects and fundamental issues raised by faculty.
  • Initiatives emphasize the role of teaching in the educational transformative process, refine the interaction between research and teaching, and nurture the culture of quality within the academic community.
  • Innovative evaluative approaches measure the impact of the institution’s support of quality teaching.
  • Teachers are aware of their responsibilities in the learning process, justifying the institutional role in fulfilling their mission.
An institution with these policies and support systems is likely to enhance teaching. Thus, the responsibility for the study and improvement of teaching practices must become a shared journey. Will you accept a role in this journey?