Content-type: text/html Downes.ca ~ Stephen's Web ~ Constructivist Pedagogy Is Superior – It Is a Matter of Definition

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community
The October edition of the ADL newsletter contains a fascinating account in defense of constructivism by Keith Taber. The version of constructivism Taber supports comes out sounding a lot like instructivism, though - "guiding students towards accepted knowledge in ways that take into account their starting points and personal ways of making sense of teaching." So it's no surprise to see John Sweller, a well known instructivist, welcoming this account. He writes, "If there is no longer an objection to explicit instruction then, as far as I am concerned, we have a consensus."

They are both not only quite happy to agree that "Open-ended, minimally guided, discovery learning is not a modern constructivist approach" but also to jump on instruction as the only alternative. After all, groups of students can't learn on their own - "most youngsters have problems setting up combinations of conditions to test variables, so why would anyone think that group-work not supported by strong teacher input was likely to be an effective basis for pedagogy?" But are only teachers capable of informing groups? There is a very big difference between the small group of classmates 19th century schoolchildren might experience and the open-ended social network of today. But my purpose here is not to defend "Open-ended, minimally guided, discovery learning," only to identify it as the straw man it truly is.

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada
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