Reconstructing Undergraduate Education: Using Learning Science to Design Effective Courses

Reconstructing Undergraduate Education: Using Learning Science to Design Effective Courses

Reconstructing Undergraduate Education: Using Learning Science to Design Effective Courses

Reconstructing Undergraduate Education: Using Learning Science to Design Effective Courses

Synopsis

This book is designed to introduce professors and administrators in higher education to the philosophical, theoretical, and research support for using a constructivist perspective on learning to guide the reconstruction of undergraduate education. It presents an original framework for systematically linking educational philosophy and learning theories to their implications for teaching practice. In this volume, Innes summarizes the sources he found most useful in developing his own set of teaching principles and course development process, and makes an argument for a particular perspective on learning--transactional constructivism--which is consistent with the philosophy of John Dewey and supported by current theory and research in learning science. Transactional constructivism, a combined approach, builds on the strengths of two competing views: psychological constructivism and the sociocultural perspective. Reconstructing Undergraduate Education: Using Learning Science to Design Effective Courses: *overviews the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of the teaching model that is the focus of the volume; *presents a summary of Dewey's educational philosophy and connects his work to current theory and research in learning science; *examines psychological constructivism, one of the basic positions within the range of learning theories that takes a constructivist perspective; *offers a case study example of a course designed and taught from this perspective; *reviews the sociocultural and the transactional constructivist perspectives; *explores the quality of dialogue and disciplinary discourse in the classroom--an issue that is critical to the success of models derived from a transactional constructivist perspective on learning; and *explores broader issues related to reform in higher education. This volume is a vital resource for all professionals involved in undergraduate education.

Excerpt

Constructivism is often presented as if it represents a single theory with clear implications for reforming teaching practice. There are, however, important differences among the various versions of constructivism. In addition, the application of learning theory to teaching practice is never straightforward. In preparing this book, I was faced with the task of pulling together a field that is still deeply divided about many important issues. I argue that a perspective is emerging that draws from the range of competing constructivist theories that can serve as a solid foundation for reforming undergraduate education.

Although I present an overarching case that includes specific teaching methods, I want to make it clear that constructivist perspectives on learning do not provide prescriptions for teaching practice or reject any particular method of instruction. Within the constructivist framework, the relationship between theory and practice is always transactional. For example, although lecturing and memorization, the frequent targets of strident criticism from constructivists, are greatly overused in higher education, it is a misuse of the theory to say that they should never be used. For example, it may be a waste of time to memorize isolated facts for a test, but it is not a waste of time to memorize a poem. Memorizing a poem is part of the process of understanding it.

It is not always what the professor does, but when and how he or she does it that distinguishes effective from ineffective methods. Constructivism is a lens for viewing learning that has profound implications for teaching. It is a learner-centered perspective. Whether learning is active or passive depends . . .

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