Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Viewing My Research Through Constructivism

After spending longer than I care to admit perusing the myriad of methodologies presented on our course website, I decided to check out Constructivism. I first became aware of this theoretical framework in my undergraduate sociology courses. As it applies to instruction, Constructivists are concerned with four major principles. The first, Readiness, refers to the personal experiences and contexts that allow students to be willing and able to learn. Spiral Organization, the second principle, focuses on structuring content for easy understanding. Going Beyond the Information Given and The Nature and Pacing of Rewards and Punishments suggest designing instruction to facilitate extrapolation and filling-in gaps of knowledge for one’s own edification (Kearsley). Each of these principals provide a foundation with which to view with my interest in the adaptation of technology in facilitating Authentic Learning. Other theories (such as Social Development theory, Multiple Intelligences theory, Feminist theories, and Social Justice inquiry) can be used in conjunction with Constructivism to offer more insight into the understanding of how meaning is derived within cognitive structures.

Readiness, the first principle of Constructivist theory as it applies to instruction, connects with the first two criteria of Authentic Instruction, “(1) students construct meaning and produce knowledge, (2) students use disciplined inquiry to construct meaning” (Newmann & Wehlage, 1993, p. 8). Students are unable to create meaningful questions without basing their inquiries on prior assumptions and beliefs. Constructivism allows us to see that new knowledge can be acquired only after the appropriate groundwork has been laid. On a practical level, this could translate into making sure learners are familiar with technical tools of online learning. Vygotsky’s Social Development theory can also be used to help translate the Readiness principal into a tool for Authentic Instruction curriculum development by establishing an appropriate base for students.

Spiral Learning builds upon Readiness by structuring content for easy student understanding. This relates to many standards of Authentic Instruction, including Depth of Knowledge, Connectedness to the World, Substantive Conversation, and Social Support for Student Achievement. Building an online environment where these values are emphasized requires specific attention be paid to accessibility issues and learning styles. Accessibility issues make up a major concern in online learning, and Constructivism stresses that content must be structured in a way that all learners are able to access educational tools. Student needs and learning styles could also examined and assisted through the theory of Multiple Intelligences as well.

The third principle of Constructivism, Going Beyond the Information Given, is what I believe to be the crux of Authentic Learning. The final Authentic Instruction criteria, student work aimed “toward production of discourse, products, and performances that have value of meaning beyond success in school” (Newmann & Wehlage, 1993, p. 8), and the standard of Higher-Order Thinking reflect this theme. Constructivists believe that Rewards and Punishments (the final principle) for learning should be centered on personal growth. Feminist theories (particularly the collaborative themes stressed in the Feminist Invitational Collaboration in a Digital Age) and Social Justice theories would be particularly suited to help formulate techniques that foster the ability to think critically and provide motivation for future study.

As applied to curriculum development, Constructivist principles clearly merge with the criteria and standards of Authentic Instruction. By using the framework of Readiness, Spiral Learning, Going Beyond the Information Given and Rewards and Punishments, a researcher will be able to assess the success of Authentic Instruction as it applies to online learning. Many other theories from the smorgasbord of methodologies can be sampled and applied seamlessly into the Constructivist approach as well, creating an opportunity for both rich and diverse discourse.

Works Cited

Kearsley, G. September 27, 2010. The Theory Into Practice Database. Retrieved from http://tip.psychology.org/bruner.html

Newmann, F. M., & Wehlage, G. G. (1993). Five standards of authentic instruction. Educational Leadership, 50(7), 8-12. http://pdonline.ascd.org/pd_online/diffinstr/el199304_newmann.html

Other Methodology Resources:

Feminist Invitational Collaboration in a Digital Age: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Gender,_Communication,_and_Technology/Feminist_Invitational_Collaboration_in_a_Digital_Age:_Looking_over_Disciplinary_and_National_Borders

Feminist Theories: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist_theory

Multiple Intelligences: http://tip.psychology.org/gardner.html

Social Development Theory: http://tip.psychology.org/vygotsky.html

Social Justice Theories: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teaching_for_social_justice

1 comment:

  1. Yes, you are correct that constructivism is an overarching philosophy in which many theories could align, yet each points to something specific within the worldview that all knowledge and values are socially constructed.

    Bruno Latour, in his book “Reassembling the Social,” argues that constructivism privileges humans as doing all the constructing of what we perceive as real, valuable, and knowledge. He builds the case that constructions of reality, values, and knowledge are formed by networks of actants, which include humans and things. From the lens of Actor Network Theory, meaning lies in the processes of networks rather than in objects or people as separate entities.

    The last 30-45 minutes of the Gender & Technology Writing Group meeting involves a discussion on feminist online pedagogy. We met in Sept. and Oct., and welcome you to the next meetings on Nov. 17, Dec. 1, Jan. 12, Feb. 16, March 2, April 6, and May 4 on Wednesdays, 5:30-7:30 pm in 118 Willard. We are audio recording our discussion on feminist online pedagogy, and then will use these transcriptions for a collaborative article on feminist online pedagogy.