Sunday, June 18, 2006


Leaping before I look.

So I've finally found out how to open my blog so watch out world! I spent the wekend hand writing my word document sothat I can then print it out and copy and paste it into my blog.The two inspiration mind maps that I worked on all weekend cannot be cut and pasted to my blog because the trial due date for the program has expired.

So what what is the story with this Constructivist Theory of education? When given this task I was both enlightened and a little concerned that I didn't quite get it. Sure, I understood the theoretical framework as far as an intellectual exercise but I found that my personal conditioning from my own childhood influences and education had not prepared me for the quantum leap of faith I was going to need to embrace this new reality.
This concern was also mirrored in the knitted brows of my fellow students, all experienced teachers in their 20's, 30's, 40's, and 50's. There was no escaping the fact that we were products of an unrepentent "instructionist" theory of education where "to get a better education we must improve instruction.
The look on my collegues faces when reading the assessment task for the blog made me visualise all of us as disavowed instructionists as sheep in an enclosure where Alan (The lecturer) had said that the gate is now open an we can go anywhere we like now, we are not confined to the enclosure any more. And we , the instructivist sheep, stood at the threshhold of the gateway keen to make a bit for freedom but bleeted all the more confused saying "Sure I like the idea of freedom to go anywhere but just tell me where to go first once I'm outside the gate."
The journey to become a born again Constructivist (in actuality we do this instinctively as good teachers)has facilitated the cleaning out of the many sleletons in my intellectual closet. My own journey in re-evaluating the philosophical implications of of my own education in the 1960's and 1970's led to the revisitation to the Instructionist approach of education that was preoccupied with"teaching rather than learning" (Schweinhart, L. J., & Weikart, D. P. (1997)) and where the Instructivist Theory of Education refers to a collection of educational practices that are teacher focussed, skill based,product oriented, non interactive and highly prescribed. ( Jonassen. 1996)
This translated personally for me in my formative years as a child as" absorbing information and ideas presented by teachers and internalizing skills through rote memorization." (Jonassen,Davidson,Collins,Campbell& Haag1995). A collegue expressed his view to me, himself a product of a Steiner based education that embraces the constructivist apporoach to education,that teachers either have experienced a positive personal school based education or have survived a brutalization of their psyches and are on a quest to right the injustices they experienced, to return to the schoolyard as wounded healers, so to speak.
So thank the gods for the likes of Piaget. Vygotski, Brunner, Gardner and others. Through their Constructivist approach to education they have opened up not a brave new world but a noble new world based on theories and practices that are " student focussed, meaning based, process oriented, interactive and responsive to students personal interests and needs.(Honbein 1996). For me personally, my education, both primary and secondary (Catholic), was fundamentally based on fear.(and the catholics were experts in this area of winning hearts and minds) And now I find the constructivist approach to education as not only morally sound and postmodern in it tenets but a sound framework as a new teacher and a personal moral vindication of my own instinctive nature , thoughts and feelings,of how to acknowledgeand communicate effectively with others and to teach, share, learn and grow with my students.
Infact, the hierarchy based Instructivist approach is lovingly countered in the constructivist framework where "emphasis is on learning processes as opposed to learning products. The process by which a student determines a particular answer is more important than the retrieval of objective solution. Student error is viewed as a mechanism of gaining insight into how the student organises theirexperiential world, (Smith& Elley 1995)" Infact the term error is largely incompatible in the Constructivist perspective because such terminology implies that individual interpretation can be deemed correct or incorrect.(Fosnot 1996). Thus the notion of multiplicity is central to constructivism: there are multiple representations of reality, none of which is automatically nor necessarily superior or inferior to the others." (von Glasserfeld 1996).
So back to the shakers and movers of Constructivism. Piaget really stuck it into the true believers of the Instructionist belief system.In his Conversations with Bringuier (1980) he states that "Education, for most people, means trying to lead the child to resemble the typical adult of his society ... but for me and me and no-one else, education means making creators.... you have to make inventors, innovators not conformist."


Schweinhart, L. J., & Weikart, D. P. (1997). Lasting differences: The high/scope preschool curriculum comparison study through age 23. High/Scope Educational

Fosnot C. (1996) Constructivism: A Psychological theory in learning. New York . Teachers College Press.

Honebin P. (1996) Seven Goals for the Design of Constructivist Learning Environments. In B. Wilson (Ed) Constructivist Learning Environments (p17 - 24) Englewood Cliffs NJ. Educational Technology Publication. Hoover & Fabian E.M. (2000)

Jonassen D.H. (ed) (1996) Handbook of research for Educational Communication and Technology N.Y. Simon and Schuster.

Smith J. & Elley W.B. (1995) Learning to read in New Zealand N.Y. Richard C Owen.

Von Glasserfeld E. (1996) Introduction: Aspects of Constructivism. In C Fosnot (ed) Constructivism: Theory, Perspectives and Practice N.Y Teachers College Press.

This is the world... and we are watching!

Regards J.
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