Constructivism in Education

By Leslie P. Steffe; Jerry Gale | Go to book overview

8
Constructivism, Cybernetics, and Information Processing: Implications for Technologies of Research on Learning

Patrick W. Thompson Center for Research in Mathematics and Science Education and Department of Mathematical Sciences San Diego State University

Constructivism, as a philosophical orientation, has only been widely accepted in mathematics and science education since the early 1980s. As it became more broadly accepted, it also became clear that there were incongruous images of it. In 1984, von Glasersfeld introduced a distinction, echoed in Steier's chapter 5, between what he called naive constructivism and radical constructivism. At the risk of oversimplification, suffice it to say that naive constructivism is the acceptance that learners construct their own knowledge, whereas radical constructivism is the acceptance that naive constructivism applies to everyone--researchers and philosophers included. von Glasersfeld's distinction had a pejorative ring to it, and rightly so. Unreflective acceptance of naive constructivism easily became dogmatic ideology, which had, and continues to have, many unwanted consequences.1 On the other hand, I attempt to make a case that, to do research, we must spend a good part of our time acting as naive constructivists, even when operating within a radical constructivist

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One such consequence is the widespread conclusion that exposition is an unacceptable teaching method. I am continually amazed by the admonition, seen frequently in mathematics education trade journals, that teachers must not give ready-made knowledge to students because students should construct their own knowledge. This says to me that many people do not understand that there is no such thing as ready-made knowledge, and that students construct their knowledge regardless of what a teacher does--but what they construct can be influenced by the nature of the social and intellectual occasions in which the constructions take place.

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