The success of Estonia's education system is likely due to two factors - it’s constructivist teaching method, and the integration of technology into the classroom.
While creating a futuristic tech-savvy classroom may be out of budget for many British schools, UK teachers can draw inspiration from the successful constructivist teaching methods that are implemented in Estonia. This alternative method focuses on pupils being actively involved in the education process, taking part in facilitating and being encouraged to interact, as opposed to passively receiving information.
With the aim to increase the technological literacy and digital competencies of pupils, from nursery, children are taught the foundations of computer programming and robotics, helping to establish their knowledge from a young age; this is conducted through practical activities and age-appropriate programming languages.
Estonia's constructivist teaching methods.
Some of the typical characteristics of constructivist teaching and classrooms are:
- being heavily student-centred and interactive
- a democratic environment
- pupils are actively encouraged to take responsibility for their learning and given high levels of autonomy
This is reflected in the level of responsibility that teachers are also given to manage the syllabus. Teachers in Estonia are entrusted to independently manage the syllabus, meaning that the class structure, schedule, pace of lessons and topics are all the teacher's responsibility. For those who like autonomy, the reward is an increased sense of freedom, which translates to more responsibility for pupils.
Teachers in a constructivist classroom will be expected to create lessons that involve experimentation, class discussions to deepen pupils’ understanding of subject matter and to implement assessments that focus on the process as much as the end result. The primary role of a teacher in an Estonian constructivist classroom will be to prompt and facilitate discussion where necessary, leaving the pupils to decipher data and information, constructing knowledge and reasoning.
As a teaching facilitator, a constructivist teacher should be familiar with David Jonassen's three major roles of modeling, coaching and scaffolding.
- Modeling - probably the most common constructivist method which is broken down into two types, behavioural and cognitive. Behavioural modeling focuses on demonstrating how to perform an activity while cognitive modeling articulates the reasoning learners should use while performing an activity.
- Coaching - a coach's role is to help motivate the student, analyse performance and provide feedback and critique.
- Scaffolding - this is a systematic approach used to support the learner focusing on four key elements; the environment, the task, the teacher and the learner.
Digital innovation - the driving force of estonian academic excellence.
In 2012 the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research launched an initiative called ProgeTiger which aimed to improve the technological literacy and digital competencies of pupils.
Four years later the ProgeTiger initiative was internationally recognised by the European Commission, who chose the program as one of the best examples of digital skills development in Europe. The success of this initiative is also due to the time and money that's been invested into training teachers to improve their own technological literacy as well as compiling a comprehensive web-based resource that teachers can use in class.
The constructivist teaching method can be used across any subject matter, so whether you're a science teacher or English teacher there are elements that you’ll be able to adopt in your own classroom. Take a look at more teaching methods from around the world here.