Edev_502 response wk1_11

Thanks for your interesting post. I’m pleased to be working with you again in this module. And thanks for the Freeman et al. article. It’s a wonderful meta-analysis that offers a great deal of empirical support into the value of constructivist methodologies as they are shown to work in the real world. The meta-analysis, of course, doesn’t try to set out the ‘why’ of the orientation. I’d like to ask you about that if I may.

Although Miller (1993, cited in Kop and Hill, 2008) asks theories to;

To describe changes within one or several areas of behaviour
To describe changes in the relationships among several areas of behaviour
To explain the course of development that has been described in terms of the first two tasks (p. 2)

I’d like to add my own (Johnny) DEP requirement for a theory: D standing for Describe; E for explain; and P for predict. A theory then describes a set of beliefs and assumptions about how we learn and from that how we can then teach. We can have expectations about learning outcomes, sequencing of syllabus and curricluum items, and about the nature of student iteraction. All these things are very useful in orienting teachers into the general practices of a classroom or an institution.

The behaviourist orientation, for example, contains the idea that if we do something over and over again while good practices are reinforced and weak practices are inhibited. We can develop learning in the individual. A deep weakness of the behaviourist orientation is that it doesn’t have the E part of DEP. It may describe and predict but it doesn’t explain. The cognitivist school does try to explain by talking about what happens in the brain of the individual.

Description and prediction are quite easy to construct even with no basis in empirical truth as all that is needed is a model that maps prior behaviour and expected behaviour, i.e expectations of the prior behaviours of others,onto a part of the model. The explanation of why something fits is where the problems come. And some models (like the behaviourist theories) don’t even try.

What is the explanation of the mechanism for constructivist and social constructivist theories in your opinion/ knowledge? Is it possible that the mechanism, when found, may turn out to be similar to what the behaviourists have been saying all along, or is there some categorical difference between theories?

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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