Distance Education

Constructivism Summary

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Discussion Responses

The teacher gives a classroom of 20 students some guidelines. After that the students are on their own on exploring the subject. Is this an example of constructivism setting? Why/ Why not? What are the best settings for constructivists? How can you relate that to CMC?

Student9 answered by saying "It depends on the unknown details whether or not this is a constructivist setting. And cited from an article written by Debra Bailey six principles to guide the design or "best setting":

Related to CMC is the notion of "Using technology as a vehicle for learning . . ." (Volker, 1991).

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Bailey, D. H. (1996). Constructivism and Multimedia: Theory and application; innovation and transformation. International Journal of Instructional Media, 23 (2), 161-165.

Volker, R. (1992). Application of constructivist theory to the use of hypermedia. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 348 037)

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Student7 said "Here are two words which are important to consider from this example, one is to give guidelines and the other is to explore the subject set up. Objectivism and constructivism are often contrasted. Constructivism emphasizes on learning in context and the learning should be meaningful and relevant to the student's real life."

Student5 referenced Wilson, Teslow, and Osman-Jouchoux (1995). [These authors] "purport, among other things, that there are specific elements of instruction to keep in mind when developing curricula based on constructivism. One aspect they point out, is that the instructor should 'Look for opportunities to give guided control to the learner, encouraging development of metacognitive knowledge,' as well as, 'Allow for teaching the moment,' which doesn't necessarily fit into the scenario above."

"Letting students go to explore on their own may have elements of constructivist thought, but doing so at the expense of rich interaction between teacher and student doesn't seem to keep the spirit of learning in a constructivist environment . . . part of a rich environment is the presence of an instructor. I think the example . . . deals with setting up the environment, which is extremely important, but seems to fall short of enhancing and facilitating learning after students are exposed to that environment."

Other principles of good constructivist learning environment include:

Through all these principles in this discussion, it seems to be pretty clear that constructivism isn't to be interpreted as simply letting students "go" with guidelines, allowing them to somehow construct their own knowledge with minimal facilitation....but that a constructivist environment is difficult to develop and maintain, where the instructor becomes integral to learning and facilitating discovery among learners.

For CMC, this may be a difficult concept to integrate into a distance learning environment. Enabling students to explore, and navigate through their own learning is something which may be a CMC strength, but the presence of the instructor as a constant facilitator may not always happen in CMC. How can this be an element of CMC which reflects constructivism

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Jonassen, D. H. (1994). Thinking technology: Toward a constructivist design model. Online resource at ftp://ithaca.icbl.hw.ac.uk/pub/nato_asi/dhj.txt.gz

The above reference may not work as given....you may need to first go to ftp://ithaca.icbl.hw.ac.uk/pub and then work your way to nato_asi/dhj.txt.gz

Wilson, B., Teslow, J., & Osman-Jouchoux, R. (1995). The impact of constructivism (and Postmodernism) on ID fundamentals. In B. B. Seels (Ed.), Instructional Design Fundamentals: A Review and Reconsideration (pp. 137-157). Englewood Cliffs NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

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Student3 said, "My first reaction was it's not constructivism; it's chaos. I was imagining this in an elementary school classroom. However, I can certainly see where this would be constructivist depending on the circumstances."

"In terms of CMC the same thing applies; it depends on what those guidelines are. The practical point of constructivism, according to my cumulative reading, is to create an atmosphere conducive to learning, a rather Deweyesque learning experience."

Student1 agreed with Student5 that "learners should be guided. Collaboration among students is important, but one should note that while learners take responsibility for their learning, skillful support from the instructor is key" (Tuckey, 1993).

Collaboration can promote a constructivist approach to learning, and CMC is an excellent medium for learner-learner and learner-instructor collaboration. However, having provision for two-way communication in no way guarantees constructivist learning (Kember, 1994). Technologies today are in fact incapable of facilitating true constructivistic learning. "Technologies must have the effect of developing transferable cognitive abilities, not simply more efficient recall of prescribed information" (Garrison, 1993). In fact Klemm & Snell (1996) criticize conferencing systems that are based mainly on the threaded discussion format and suggest that teachers insist on deliverables (construction of something) as part of a course using a computer conferencing system.

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Garrison, D.R. (1993). A Cognitive Constructivist View of Distance Education: An Analysis of Teaching-Learning Assumptions. Distance Education, 14(2), 199-211.

Kember, D. (1994). The Teacher is more important than the medium: Pre-Packaged Instructional Materials are not Axiomatic with Surface Learning. Distance Education, 15(1), 153-159.

Klemm, W.R., & Snell, J.R. (1996). Enriching Computer-Mediated Group Learning by coupling Constructivism with Collaborative Learning.

Tuckey, C.J. (1993). Computer conferencing and the electronic white board in the United Kingdom: A comparative analysis. The American Journal of Distance Education, 7(2), 58-72.

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