[IAEP] Concise explanation of Constructionism from the LearningTeam

Costello, Rob R Costello.Rob.R at edumail.vic.gov.au
Sat Aug 16 02:30:24 EDT 2008

If constructionism means "the use of vague open-ended projects without
instruction" then maybe more people would agree with you...

But I can't see that anyone is really promoting that, except maybe as a
paper tiger to shadow box with

Eg constructivism (personal construction of knowledge) is not in the
least incompatible with instruction, practice, use of worked examples
etc... it just emphasises that one has to develop one's own conceptual
structure of how any body of knowledge ... and sometimes that means
personal exploration

And constructionism, is basically the insight that there can be a very
powerful and influential place for enquiry and discovery, via
constructing artefacts (eg modelling, programming) in learning ... 

(there are parallels to the research process, where the 'answers' are
not known in advance - so one advantage of these approaches is it can
cultivate/preserve a genuine sense of enquiry)

I wouldn't subscribe to this as a single view though... mentoring and
explicit teaching and examples are often needed, and often in large

Coleridge's lament - 'what suits the part now infects the whole' can
apply to both sides (a pure course of worked examples and instruction,
or a pure course of exploration and discovery- neither works for most

You're right that some more capable students like traditional
models...and thats also good (as long as it not just safe mimicry)

... its easy to overdo constructionist approaches, its easy to do it
poorly, its easy to parody as unguided discovery learning...and its easy
to avoid the challenge of doing it all

> -----Original Message-----
> From: iaep-bounces at lists.sugarlabs.org [mailto:iaep-
> bounces at lists.sugarlabs.org] On Behalf Of Albert Cahalan
> Sent: Saturday, 16 August 2008 3:53 PM
> To: seth at laptop.org; iaep at lists.sugarlabs.org
> Subject: Re: [IAEP] Concise explanation of Constructionism from the
> LearningTeam
> Seth Woodworth writes:
> > [Future of Learning Group]
> >> We are developing "Constructionism" as a theory of learning and
> >> education. Constructionism is based on two different senses of
> >> "construction." It is grounded in the idea that people learn by
> >> actively constructing new knowledge, rather than having information
> >> "poured" into their heads. Moreover, constructionism asserts that
> >> people learn with particular effectiveness when they are engaged
> >> in constructing personally meaningful artifacts (such as computer
> >> programs, animations, or robots).
> >
> > I thought that this explination was concise and really interesting.
> > I would love to explain this to people who want to desige
> > just to give them a little snapshot of the concept.  Does anyone
> > a problem with this deffinition? Does anyone have an improvement?
> Yes.
> That definition sounds lovely, like a politician's speech.
> It's all feel-good stuff that matches up perfectly with how
> we **desire** education to work.
> Unfortunately, the cold hard facts don't support the ideas.
> In study after study, including the largest educational study
> ever done, the ideas have been proven to fail.
> Better:
> Constructionism is a failed educational theory which promoted
> the feel-good idea that people would reinvent human knowledge
> though personally meaningful exploration. Constructionism is
> commonly used to hide both teacher and student deficiency in a
> sea of confusion, allowing the avoidance of necessary learning.
> Through the use of vague open-ended projects without instruction,
> the brighter students are brought down to the level of the dimmest
> students. The resulting lack of education is hidden by avoiding
> reproducable tests.
> _______________________________________________
> IAEP -- It's An Education Project (not a laptop project!)
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> http://lists.sugarlabs.org/listinfo/iaep

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