[IAEP] inquiry on constructionism advantages

Bill Kerr billkerr at gmail.com
Wed Sep 30 09:13:28 EDT 2009

On Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 2:21 AM, Yamandu Ploskonka <yamaplos at gmail.com>wrote:

> 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
> 1) How do constructionist pupils do on standardized tests, such as
> University entrance exams.  (please inform about other demographic
> situations besides children of highly trained scholars - most Bolivian
> kids do not fit THAT bracket, alas)
> 2) How do they do with usual classroom tests, especially in the
> University.
> Core question is, are alumni of constructionism better, or at least
> competitive there?  What evidence do we have to prove this?
> 3) Is there any evidence (objective, unbiased) as to the impact of
> constructionism in education?  The big maybe here is further impact on
> development, yes ? (I may be mistaken here, please correct)
> 4) any other solid, statistically valid data supporting constructionism
> Please avoid treatises - I will be presenting this this week, and if
> anyone would volunteer, it may be possible to put you directly in touch
> with this official and/or his staff.  It is, or should be widely known
> that I see the current conctructionist stance within OLPC and Sugar as a
> misguided, feel-good attempt that is bound to do more harm to most kids
> than good compared to what could be achieved with a solid
> curricular-content approach, but I honestly would be happier I were
> mistaken, if determined by solid evidence.
> I looooove constructionism, it just doesn't seem to me to be what kids
> need, and all in all, I wish it worked, but I cannot prove it does for
> most kids. I am certain, but cannot prove either, that it does work
> within classrooms with highly trained teachers, or for gifted kids, or
> when there is a lot of educated support from home, in any case not a
> basis to adopt it for a country like Bolivia.
> Yama

Idit Harel's fractions study using logo contained a wide variety of testing
/ assessment criteria - some standardised type and others tracking
individual development of children who progressed from not having a clue
about what a fraction was to a sophisticated understanding

I did a sort of replication of her study in an R12 or K12 school a few years
ago and wrote it up and Idit's book is referenced at the end:

I think a better way to think about this Yama is not to see it as an either
/ or but that constructionist methods can achieve things that what you
describe as a "solid curricular-content approach" may not be able to achieve

I also recently wrote a brief review of Liping Ma's book about maths
learning as a contribution to attempting to put the curriculum wars into a
more positive framework:

"She also has the solution to the maths wars, the so called dichotomy
between transmission and inquiry based teaching methods. That is usually
surface appearance. The degree of meaningful understanding that occurs in
the classroom depends mainly on the depth of the teachers conceptual
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