On Considering Constructivism for Improving Mathematics and Science Teaching and Learning
Thomas M. Dana and Nancy T. Davis
The concept of constructivism has kindled a great deal of interest in many educational circles. Within the fields of mathematics and science education, many scholars from a diversity of backgrounds and interests are beginning to use constructivism as a way to make sense of educational phenomena. The purpose of this book is to explore the nature of constructivism as an epistemology and the role constructivist thinking can have in teaching and learning contexts. The idea of constructivism has stimulated debate recently in educational circles, and the chapters of this book add important contributions to the ongoing discussions about knowledge, knowing, teaching, learning, and research in mathematics and science education.
This book is likely to serve as a starting point to understanding constructivism for many readers while challenging those already familiar with constructivism to reconceptualize educational situations--particularly those associated with efforts to vastly improve the current state of mathematics and science education. As such, the primary purpose of this concluding chapter is to examine the arguments and cases presented by the authors in order to highlight some of the common notions interwoven throughout their various stories. While the authors have guided the reader through many philosophic arguments and practical examples, we will examine the question of how embracing the notions of constructivism must also require a collective rephrasing and rethinking of many taken-for-granted educational practices. To that end, we have organized our comments in this final chapter around five themes woven throughout this book: knowledge and knowing, teaching and learning, educating teachers, educational research, and future directions.
Consider, for a moment, an image of a teacher with an epistemological perspective that posits the process of coming to know as the search for truth. Learners are like discoverers who have the task of finding knowledge, perhaps