Understanding Constructivism(s): A Primer for Parents and School Board Members

By Vermette, Paul; Foote, Chandra et al. | Education, Fall 2001 | Go to article overview

Understanding Constructivism(s): A Primer for Parents and School Board Members


Vermette, Paul, Foote, Chandra, Bird, Cliff, Mesibov, Don, Harris-Ewing, Sharon, Battaglia, Cathy, Education


Introduction: Setting the Stage

While some observers note that there always seems to be a new fad, or a pendular shift, or a passing fancy affecting (and, thus, infecting) our schools (Ellis and Fouts, 1997; Slavin, 1989), there are others who argue that educators are always in search of a better way of doing things, and are by nature, experimenters with their own students (Vermette, 1998). The reform movement spawned in the mid 80's has resulted in numerous policy and programmatic changes offered, debated, and implemented (Ellis and Fouts, 1997), many without clear research support and some appearing to be closely connected to beliefs or practices long out of favor. However, some of the suggested practices are worthy of serious consideration and implementation.

One such innovation, a SET of theories called constructivism (Brooks and Brooks, 1993; Olsen, 1999; Perkins, 1999; Schuerman, 1998), is currently appearing in every conceivable corner of the educational universe. In a clear demonstration of its national importance, constructivism was the cover story of the November 1999 issue of Educational Leadership, arguably the leading journal of the profession. Further evidence of the attention given to constructivism can be found in the over 200 articles published on this topic since January of 1999 (see ERIC and Academic Search Elite databases).

The purpose of this article is two-fold. First, we wish to provide a little background to the recent emergence of the term "constructivism" in the conversations and the deliberations of policy-makers. Secondly, we offer a "primer" detailing 15 elements that are common to most conceptions of constructivism. This "primer" is presented in the form of an old fashioned reader, to emphasize both its offering of fundamental attributes and to pay homage to our educational history.

The Context of the Emergence of the Term "Constructivism"

Contemporary constructivisms (thus emphasizing that there are currently a variety of conceptions in the literature) can be clearly linked to the educational philosophies of John Dewey (1933) and the Progressive movement, an approach to education that lost favor in post WWII America. Misunderstood by politicians, policy makers and by the press, it was popularly regarded as simplistic, less-than-rigorous, and "anything goes" schooling. (Aspects of the movement remained in education, however, often appearing as the highly challenging, creative, and student-centered projects offered to "gifted and talented" students, especially in the sciences.)

In its revival today, constructivism refocuses its Deweyian roots and links them directly to the conceptions of learning offered by such giants as Piaget (1963), Vygotsky (1962), Gardner (1983) and Brunet (1968). However, constructivism's march forward to successful classroom practice has been anything but linear: the past decade has paid witness to the "fits and starts" that accompany the development of any innovation, and this may have led to great confusion and anxiety among parents and school board members who are searching for "best practice" for their children. This uncertainly is further exacerbated by the existence of multiple conceptions of constructivism and the fact that their greatest commonality is that they are the "opposites" of the traditional practice that has been in vogue (and thus supported by policy makers) for twenty years.

The Meaning of Constructivism in Practice

As the potential for constructivist practices becomes more widely accepted, it becomes increasingly important, even imperative, that parents and school board members develop a conceptual understanding of the term and its implications for their children's education. In the primer offered below, the meaning of constructivism is described in terms of its connections or links to 15 other, more universally shared, concepts. Recognizing that important concepts are usually intangible and rely on discourse for clarification (Vermete, 1983; Vygotsky, 1962), we know that our "primer" will not have settled the issue once and for all. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Understanding Constructivism(s): A Primer for Parents and School Board Members
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.