2021 ACT Virtual Conference
October 23-24, 2021
Last year’s conference was a day of conversation about the meaning and role of peace, justice, equity and equality in the classroom, featuring keynoters Dr. Christopher Emdin and Dr. Martin Nalls and 34 remarkable workshop leaders.
This year we enrich the base we established with two days of conversation with scholars of constructivism speaking to the theme “Constructivist Teaching is Social Justice Teaching.”
Our 2021 Keynote Speakers
Carolyn Hildebrandt is a Professor of Psychology at University of Northern Iowa. A long-time member of ACT, she has served on the Board of Directors and as Editor of The Constructivist. She coauthored the book, Developing Constructivist Early Childhood Curriculum: Practical Principles and Activities, along with numerous articles, chapters, and curricular modules with Rheta DeVries, Betty Zan, and other members of Regent’s Center for Early Developmental Education. Her main areas of interest are social and moral development, musical development, group games, critical thinking, and constructivist approaches to early developmental education.
Our Journey Towards Justice
As constructivist educators, our goal is to help children become creative and productive members of our increasingly complex, multicultural, democratic society. During these times of social unease and unrest, our work is more urgent than ever. However, despite the high-powered demands of our personal and professional lives, it is important to pause from time to time and ask, “Where have we been? Where are we now? Where are we going?”
Constructivist education has its roots in the work of Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget and American philosopher and educator, John Dewey. Piaget believed that social life among children is a necessary context for the development of intelligence, morality, and personality. Dewey believed that moral education should permeate every aspect of the curriculum and school life. Both emphasized the importance of allowing children to construct their understandings of justice and welfare within the context of relationships based on mutual understanding and respect. These principles of constructivist education continue to be relevant today.
In this presentation, I will trace our journey toward justice with examples from university laboratory schools, public and parochial schools, and pop-up “granny schools” that emerged during the pandemic. Throughout this time, I will illustrate ways we can encourage our students to think critically and compassionately about social and moral issues that are of importance to themselves and to each other.
Cathy Fosnot is Professor Emerita of Childhood Education at the City University of NY and the past Founding Director of Mathematics in the City. She is currently President of Catherine Fosnot & Associates: New Perspectives and the senior author of Contexts for Learning Mathematics (now a core curriculum k-5, comprised of 54 units). She is also the author of many journal articles and 10 books, the most recent Conferring with Young Mathematicians at Work. Her work has received many awards, among them the Significant Contribution Award from the American Educational Research Association SIG on Constructivism (which she received twice) and the Teacher of the Year Award from CCNY. She is a frequent keynoter around the world.
Social Justice in Math
Social Justice during math workshops requires that all students have opportunities for powerful learning moments—moments where discussions invite challenges, puzzlement, reflection, and new insights. For this to happen, the problematic situations worthy of exploration should invite curiosity at the start, have multiple entry points for learners, and provide a variety of potential pursuits along the way for wonderment and new challenges to arise. Teachers work as mentors, conferring in the moment to maximize potential learning for each student. A deep understanding of math development—characterized by progressive schematization (strategies), structures (big ideas), and powerful representations (models as tools for thinking)—is needed to confer in ways that maximize moments in the heart of teaching. This session will provide video examples across the grades with analyses, tips, and tools for documentation of student learning.
Dr. Sandra Stone
Dr. Sandra J. Stone is Professor Emeritus at Northern Arizona University. She founded the National Multiage Institute, an international leader in providing professional development for educators from all over the world. Dr. Stone is the author of the books Playing: A Kid’s Curriculum (GoodYear Books), Creating the Multiage Classroom (GoodYear Books) and Understanding Multiage Education (Stone & Burriss; Routledge, 2019). Based on her research, she has written multiple articles on play, symbolic play, and literacy and play. Dr. Stone is past editor for the Journal of Research in Childhood Education.
The Social Constructivist Context of Play
This presentation builds on the understanding of the constructivist framework where every child constructs or builds his or her own knowledge of the world as he or she actively participates in the world and with others. Play provides a rich social constructivist context for children to grow and develop in whole child learning as they engage with one another. The general benefits of social play for children will be described. Goals for teachers on preparing social play environments will be discussed. The ultimate goal for teachers is not to produce identical versions of the same standardized product, but to respect the individuality and differences of every child, empowering each child in the journey of building his or her own happy and fulfilling life.
Jacqueline Grennon Brooks
Professor Emerita, Department of Teaching, Literacy & Leadership, Hofstra University