Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Educational Philosophy Meanderings

Epistemology and ontology:

My learning/teaching philosophy is definitely affected by my background in biology and in having done field research. Empirical evidence, objectivism, are inherit in some of the classes and activities. However, having been involved in learning other things and teaching I also have some roots in constructivism and situated theory. As I read through the different philosophies I inevitably would read a section and start thinking, “I like this stuff and it seems to jive with my take on learning.” And then, I would also inevitably hit some of the descriptors and think, “I am definitely not in agreement with that. For example, cognitive constructivism, “From the cognitive constructivist perspective, there is a real world that we experience...however, this world cannot be directly known, which broadens the nature of the ontology to realism. That reality exists is not denied…” (Up until now I like this) “…however, what we know of the world is only an interpretation based on our experiences.” Even that is okay but I violently disagree with the next statement, “As such, cognitive constructivism is subjective and relativist, providing for no absolute in what is right or wrong…”


I picked this topic to see what it really is. I’ve heard about it a lot and kind of assumed it was a learning theory/philosophy. I was somewhat mistaken, particularly in the former. Why? Because constructivism is “not yet one theory but a multitude of approaches.” Drischoll, (200). It can be a set of values.

Looking at methods associated with constructivism can help one get a feel for it:

Discovery learning

Generative learning

Goal/problem-based learning

Collaborative learning

Approaches that are constructivist…what are their underlying assumptions?

1. Knowledge is constructed by rather than transferred to the learner

2. Embed learning in complex, realistic, and relevant environments (learn by doing; learn to deal with complexity, or the real world, by learning in complexity.

3. Provide for social negotiation as an integral part of learning (social interaction).

4. Support multiple perspectives and the use of multiple modes of representation (many perspectives and “models” gives you a better view of what is going on).

5. Encourage ownership in learning (anxiously engaged).

6. Nurture self-awareness of the knowledge construction process (metacognition).

Where is the research on constructivism- and situated-cognition type approaches?

Situated cognition: knowing and doing cannot be separated.

Knowledge as a tool. Irrelevant when divorced from context and then all to often misused when it is plugged back into context.

Community of practice…disciplines, professions, or manual trades are communities or cultures. Often students are asked to use the tools without being able to see or adopt the culture and enter the “community.”

Authentic activity.

Students create their own solution paths.

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