Saturday, June 29, 2013

On Constructivism

From the book, ‘Tuition to Intuition’ by Dr.K.N.Anandan (
Susan Hanley describes her perspective on the objectivist model:
“Classes are usually driven by “teacher talk” and depend heavily on textbooks for the structure of the course. There is the idea that there is a fixed world of knowledge that the student must come to know. Information is divided into parts and built into a whole concept. Teachers serve as pipelines and seek to transfer their thoughts and meanings to the passive student. There is little room for student-initiated questions, independent thought or interaction between students. The goal of the learner is to regurgitate the accepted explanation or methodology expostulated by the teacher.”
Von Glaserseld’s (1995b) in radical constructivist conception of learning says, the teachers play the role of a “midwife in the birth of understanding” as opposed to being “mechanics of knowledge transfer”. He argues that: “From the constructivist perspective, learning is not a stimulus-response phenomenon. It requires self-regulation and the building of conceptual structures through reflection and abstraction.” Fosnot (1996) adds that ‘rather than behaviours or skills as the goal of instruction, concept development and deep understanding are the foci.”
In constructivist paradigm, learning emphasizes the process and not the product. How one arrives at a particular answer, and not the retrieval of an ‘objectively true solution’, is what is important. Learning is a process of constructing meaningful representations, of making sense of one’s experiential world. In this process, students’ errors are seen in positive light and as a means of gaining insight into how they are organizing their experiential world. The notion of doing something ‘right’ or ‘correctly’ is to do something that fits with ‘an order one has established oneself’. This perspective is consistent with the constructivist tendency to privilege multiple truths, representations, perspectives and realities.
Design principles of Constructivism
Jonassen (1991) notes that many educators and cognitive psychologists have applied constructivism to the development of learning environments. From these applications, he has isolated a number of design principles:
  1. Create real-world environments that employ the context in which learning is relevant;
  2. Focus on realistic approaches to solving real-world problems;
  3. The instructor is a coach and analyzer of the strategies used to solve these problems;
  4. Stress conceptual interrelatedness, providing multiple representations or perspectives on the content;
  5. Instructional goals and objectives should be negotiated and not imposed;
  6. Evaluation should serve as a self-analysis tool;
  7. Provide tools and environments that  help learners interpret the multiple perspectives of the world;
  8. Learning should be internally controlled and mediated by the learner
Jonassesn (1994) summarizes what he refers to as “the implications of constructivism for instructional design”. The following principles illustrate how knowledge construction can be facilitated:
  1. Provide multiple representations of reality;
  2. Represent the natural complexity of the real world;
  3. Focus on knowledge construction, not reproduction;
  4. Present authentic tasks (contextualizing rather than abstracting instruction);
  5. Provide real-world, case-based learning environments, rather than pre-determined instructional sequences;
  6. Foster reflective practice;
  7. Enable context-and content dependent knowledge construction;
  8. Support collaborative construction of knowledge through social negotiation.

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