The Constructivist View:
A Fashionable and Fruitful
Paradigm for Science Education
Research and Practice
Reinders Duit Institute for Science Education at the University of Kiel, Germany
Contemporary constructivism is not a totally new idea. On the contrary, there is a long-standing tradition of constructivist ideas in philosophy, in the philosophy and practice of education, and also in empirical research on students' preinstructional conceptions in science. Steffe ( 1990b) briefly outlined some aspects of the history of constructivism. For instance, he pointed out that Kant ( 1724-1804) held major constructivist ideas. Jung ( 1985) interpreted Bacon's ( 1561-1626) ideas in Novum Organum within such a framework.
Where the field of education is concerned, there is also a long-standing tradition. German philosopher of education Herbart ( 1776-1841) called the process by which experiences are related to familiar conceptions already acquired apperceptions (cf. Miller, 1979. The German term used by Herbart is apperzeption; cf. Herbart, 1965). This concept reminds one of the well-known Piagetian concept of assimilation (i.e., the process of assimilating experiences with the concepts already held). Both Herbart and Piaget may be viewed as constructivists. The main aspects of their approaches are based in constructivism.
German hermeneutics and phenomenological traditions dating back to Dilthey ( 1877-1911) and Husserl ( 1859-1908) must also be mentioned here. They have now been rediscovered, especially in the discussion about adequate research methods in a constructivist framework (cf. Erickson, 1986).