A New Way of Knowing
Gordon Brown
George Mason University
EDUC 800: Ways of Knowing
Not going to do the powerpoint
• Rather than model transmission/direct
• I’ll use the 10-15 minutes to model
Constructivist methods and we’ll construct
our knowledge of constructivism
• Starting with K-W-L
• Jot down 2 things you know about
constructivism and 1 thing you want to know
• (accessing student prior knowledge, student
generated inquiry/curriculum)
• And then an example—non-example activity:
you may use the paper and peers as needed
• (active, cooperative, teacher as facilitator, etc.)
3 Salient Points: #1
• Constructivism the learning theory, credited to
Piaget, is not directly related to constructivism
the teaching praxis
• In fact the theory applies to all methods of
pedagogy whether they are based in
behaviorism, the cognitive school, direct
instruction, objectivism, etc.
Salient point # 2: response to critics
• Constructivism is not equivalent to
• It is rigorous
• In fact, if anything constructivist teachers,
when employing the methods properly, work
harder and interact with students more than
teachers following other pedagogies
Salient point #3: Search for a defintion
led to construction of one:
• Normal dictionaries, namely the current
Microsoft Word Encarta Dictionary: English
(North America) and Webster’s II from 2005,
proved unhelpful. (The e-version of Encarta
gave it as a Russian artistic movement of
modern art in the 1920s, and Webster’s had
no entry).
#3 continued
• As Davis wrote (1995):
• “Constructivism”—like “feminism,” “relativism,”
“postmodernism,” and a plethora of other “isms”—has been used as an umbrella term for a
range of loosely related notions. As such, it has
been subject to a variety of interpretations (see,
for example, von Glasersfeld, 1984). Sweeping
statements about “constructivist beliefs” are,
therefore, inherently problematic.
# 3 continued
• So, using the collective knowledge assimilated through the research
for this paper, let’s attempt to construct a concise definition of
constructivism in the context of praxis.
• constructivism n. 1. (in praxis) An instructional framework, based on
the theory of learning formalized by Piaget of the same name, that
includes the following tenets and practices: students are active
learners who are engaged in the process of constructing their
knowledge; teachers are guides and facilitators who provide
stimulating learning environments and pose questions; instruction
is inquiry and problem based and often involves collaboration,
cooperation and discussion; assessment occurs throughout the
learning process, and assessment and evaluation are typically
authentic and performance based; students and teachers reflect on
any and all aspects of the teaching and learning process and these
reflections significantly impact their learning process and products.
The paper took a practitioner—not a
• Not a study of the theory, theorists nor their
bodies of works, such as, Piaget, Kant, Dewey
• Used sources that practitioners would use, such
as, Wikipedia, and short journal
articles that provided overviews and pragmatic
classroom applications…
• …but checked references and closely read and
analyzed a number of them, particularly the
research and critiques, such as Kim, Kirschner,
Sweller & Clark, Brooks & Brooks, etc.
Wear a hard-hat
• Construction sites result in buildings but can
be dangerous and require scaffolding
• Remember balance and variety (see
conclusion in paper)
• Proceed with caution and a deliberate, wellengineered plan