Matriculation in a new millennium : analysis of a constructivist educational reform in Israeli high schools
For over fifty years the Israeli Ministry of Education relied on matriculation examinations as an exclusive measure of evaluation. The curriculum was developed Vis-a-vis the exams, and the studies were predominantly conservative methods of frontal teaching and written exams. In 1996 a new program (called "Bagrut 2000"), based on constructivist ideas, was initiated to overcome some of the examinations' drawbacks. That project took place in 22 high schools across Israel.;This study examines the merits and disadvantages of the new teaching method versus the old one. The traditional ones emphasis presenting a structured material, having students mainly use rote learning. That process' outcomes are measured in standardized tests. The constructivist methods assume that learning is created by a lengthy process of collecting data, discussing it and solidify it into idiosyncratic knowledge.;This study explored the attitudes of 330 sampled 11th and 12th grade students, 22 teachers 11 project-coordinators and 11 principals, from 11 out of the 22 schools that participate in the program, using both positivist and interpretive paradigms by pre-post questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. High-ranking governmental officials were also interviewed. The findings support the beneficial impacts of the new method. Both students and teachers reported higher motivational and a shift to more autonomous learning methods. To a lesser degree the students felt more satisfied and self-assured about their capabilities, compared with the situation before the program. The teachers reported using new teaching methods, which have proved to be more rewarding and to increase their motivation to teach. In all, the project's outcomes support Vygotsky's claim that discussions are an effective mode of learning. The new methods improved student-teacher relations (though not pupil-pupil relations) and the Schools' social atmosphere.;Based on four years follow-up and interviews with the project's leaders it becomes clear that the results justify the relatively high expanses and the increased teaching hours that was necessary to run the program.