Publication 2958

Thompson P. W. (1995) Constructivism, cybernetics, and information processing: Implications for research on mathematical learning. In: Steffe L. P. & Gale J. (eds.) Constructivism in education. Erlbaum, Hillsdale NJ: 123–134. Fulltext at https://cepa.info/2958
Excerpt: Constructivism as a philosophical orientation has been widely accepted in mathematics and science education only since the early 1980s. As it became more broadly accepted, it also became clear that there were incongruous images of it. In 1984, Ernst von Glasersfeld introduced a distinction, echoed in Steier’s paper at this conference, between what he called “naive” constructivism and “radical” constructivism. At the risk of oversimplification, suffice it to say that naive constructivism is the acceptance that learners construct their own knowledge, while radical constructivism is the acceptance that naive constructivism applies to everyone – researchers and philosophers included. Von Glasersfeld’s distinction had a pejorative ring to it, and rightly so. Unreflective acceptance of naive constructivism easily became dogmatic ideology, which had and continues to have many unwanted consequences. On the other hand, I will attempt to make a case that to do research we must spend a good part of our time acting as naive constructivists, even when operating within a radical constructivist or ecological constructionist framework. To make clear that the orientation I have in mind is not unreflexive, I will call it “utilitarian” constructivism, and will use Steier’s and Spiro’s papers as a starting point in its explication.

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