Toward A Pragmatic Discourse of Constructivism: Reflections on Lessons from Practice

  • Gordon M
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In the past few decades, a constructivist discourse has emerged as a very powerful model for explaining how knowledge is produced in the world, as well as how students learn.' For constructivists like Joe Kincheloe (2000) and Barbara Thayer-Bacon (1999), knowledge about the world does not simply exist out there, waiting to be discovered, but is rather constructed by human beings in their interaction with the world. "The angle from which an entity is seen, the values of the researcher that shape the questions he or she asks about it, and what the researcher considers important are all factors in the construction of knowledge about the phenomenon in question" (Kincheloe, 2000, 342). Thayer-Bacon (1999) invoke a quilting bee metaphor to highlight the fact that knowledge is constructed by people who are socially and culturally embedded, rather than isolated individuals. To assert that knowledge is constructed, rather than discovered, implies that it is neither indepen-dent of human knowing nor value free. Indeed, constructivists believe that what is deemed knowledge is always informed by a particular perspective and shaped by various implicit value judgments. According to Mark Windschitl (1999), constructivism is based on the assertion that learners actively create, interpret, and reorganize knowledge in individual ways. "These fluid intellectual transformations," he maintain, "occur when stu-dents reconcile formal instructional experiences with their existing knowledge, with the cultural and social contexts in which ideas occur, and with a host of other influences that serve to mediate understanding" (752). In this view, teach-ing should promote experiences that require students to become active, scholarly participators in the learning process. Windschitl (1999) goes on to note that "such experiences include problem-based learning, inquiry activities, dialogues with

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  • Mordechai Gordon

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