[IAEP] inquiry on constructionism advantages

forster at ozonline.com.au forster at ozonline.com.au
Mon Sep 28 19:07:22 EDT 2009

> I have received an inquiry on implementing constructionism from a high 
> official in the Bolivian government.
> Since my opinion may be biased :-), I request you help us with clear, 
> simple and please objective answers (no vapor-stuff), if at all possible


The short answer is probably that there is no evidence that constructionism raises standardised test scores. It is probably better to look at constructivism, which shares many of the features of constructionism, and is much more researched, again I expect that there is little or no evidence.

The problem is that standardised tests only can test a subset of what students should learn, that which can be easily tested. The best way, in the short term, to raise test scores is to rote teach solutions exactly matching the kinds of questions found in tests. Unfortunately that produces students who are good at those tests and not much else.

There is a lot of evidence to support this, I recall a study where a class was taught the solution to the 7 bridges* problem. They were later given an isomorphic problem, having the same solution but not about bridges, none of the students was able to solve it.

I recommend reading  Toward a design theory of problem solving
David H. Jonassen

Good teachers recognise the merits of constructivist and instructionist approaches and adjust their teaching style to the context.

Performance Based Assessments, Authentic Assessment and portfolios are intended to be better aligned to constructivist outcomes, (Marsh C. Becoming a teacher) but are harder to standardise than other assessments because they are teaching higher level skills (see Blooms Taxonomy) than those that are normally tested in standardised tests.

Sorry probably not the answer you needed.


Its interesting to examine standardised tests to see what level of Blooms Taxonomy they test. They generally work at the lower 3 levels of skill in Blooms Taxonomy. There is a cat and mouse game between examiners and teachers. Examiners think up novel questions from left field which test higher level skills, teachers then teach rote solutions to their students in following years, thus converting the question and similar ones of that type into tests of lower level skills

* 7 bridges problem, maybe it was 5? Anyway bridges connect islands and you have to cross each bridge only once.

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