Questions and Answers about Radical Constructivism
Ernst von Glasersfeld
The questions I try to answer in the pages that follow were raised after talks I gave at the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) meeting in Atlanta, GA ( April 1990) and at an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) symposium in Washington, D.C. ( February 1991). Given the time limitation at both occasions, I could address only a small selection. While reviewing the whole collection at a later date, I found that the material could be roughly divided into three subject areas. I begin with the specifically epistemological ones, then consider those that concern the problem of social interaction, and I end with some implications the constructivist orientation might have for teachers and the philosophy of instruction. Because the answers I give are not derived from an established dogma but spring from my subjective point of view, the reader will find a certain amount of overlapping between the three sections. I would like to claim that this is inevitable because, in my experience, once one shifts to the constructivist orientation, everything one thinks and does changes in a way that seems remarkably similar and coherent. Let me emphasize a point I have made in many of my papers: constructivism, as far as I am concerned, is one possible way of thinking. It is a model, and models, no matter how useful they may prove, must never be claimed to be "true."
1. Is constructivism primarily an epistemology or a pedagogy?
Constructivism confronts questions of knowledge--what knowledge is and where it comes from. It can therefore be considered an exercise in