Radical Constructivism: A Way of Knowing and Learning

By Ernst Von Glasersfeld | Go to book overview

Preface by Series Editor

Mathematics education is now established worldwide as a major area of study, with numerous dedicated journals and conferences serving national and international communities of scholars. Research in mathematics education is also becoming more theoretically orientated. Vigorous new perspectives are pervading it from disciplines and fields as diverse as psychology, philosophy, logic, sociology, anthropology, history, feminism, cognitive science, semiotics, hermeneutics, post-structuralism and post-modernism. The series Studies in Mathematics Education consists of research contributions to the field based on disciplined perspectives that link theory with practice. It is founded on the philosophy that theory is the practitioner’s most powerful tool in understanding and changing practice. Whether the practice is mathematics teaching, teacher education, or educational research, the series will offer new perspectives to assist in clarifying and posing problems and to stimulate debate. The series Studies in Mathematics Education will encourage the development and dissemination of theoretical perspectives in mathematics education as well as their critical scrutiny. It aims to have a major impact on the development of mathematics education as a field of study into the twenty-first century.

In the past decade or two, the most important theoretical perspective to emerge in mathematics education has been that of constructivism. This burst onto the international scene at the exciting and controversial Eleventh International Conference on the Psychology of Mathematics Education in Montréal, in the Summer of 1983. No one who was there will forget Ernst von Glasersfeld’s calm and authoritative plenary panel presentation on radical constructivism, and his replies to critics. That controversy confirmed his earlier observation that ‘To introduce epistemological considerations into a discussion of education has always been dynamite’ (Glasersfeld, 1983, p.41). Ironically, the attacks on radical constructivism at that conference, which were perhaps intended to fatally expose its weaknesses, served as a platform from which it was launched to widespread international acceptance and approbation.

In this volume Ernst von Glasersfeld offers what I believe to be the definitive theoretical account of radical constructivism. It is an elegantly written and thoroughly argued account of this epistemological position, providing a profound analysis of its central concepts. Although he indicates his debt to Jean Piaget (and indeed to collaborators such as Leslie P. Steffe), Glasersfeld

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