Altered books as a form of student reflection about constructivist learning experiences
Improving student motivation and engagement in learning curriculum outcomes has become an increasingly difficult task in the 21st century. The purpose of this study was to discover if using constructivist teaching strategies, such as student group work, differentiated instruction, inquiry-based learning strategies, and experiential learning would increase student motivation and engagement, opposed to when commercially scripted programs, such as Saxon Math and Reading Mastery were used to teach lessons. An integral part of constructivist learning is the development of student metacognition (student self-reflective practice). The students in the study created an altered book (an existing book altered to consider the learning and creativity of the student) to document their experiences and thoughts about different learning activities that took place throughout the school year. Altered books are a form of artistic journaling where a pre-existing book is reworked to provide a new surface where images (drawings, collage, photography, etc.) and writing are used to document the author’s reflection. The students’ altered books were interpreted at the end of the school year through qualitative data analysis to see what the books revealed about the participants’ engagement level and the ability of the participants to develop metacognition skills by reflecting on their learning. Kolb’s model of “Teacher as a Guide” and Thorpe’s “Theoretical Model of Reflection” were used as the basis for interpreting the metacognition and engagement level of the participants during learning activities based on constructivist methodology opposed to traditional teaching strategies.