Publication 4593

Smith E. (1995) Where is the mind? “Knowing” and “knowledge” in Cobb’s constructivist and sociocultural perspectives. Educational Researcher 24(6): 23–24. Fulltext at
Excerpt: Paul Cobb makes a strong case that the distinction between socioculturalism and constructivism is based primarily on the observational perspective chosen by the researcher. That is, researchers from the two areas often focus on different issues and ask different questions. As Cobb states: “From one perspective, the focus is on the social and cultural basis of personal experience. From the other perspective, it is on the constitution of social and cultural processes by actively interpreting individuals” (p. 15). The process of formulating a research question places the researcher within one of the perspectives. Making this process explicit enables others to understand why a researcher has chosen a particular focus for observation (e.g., the individual student, the classroom setting, etc.) and helps them understand why this focus will differ across researchers. This can, in turn, support the idea that these perspectives can be more complementary than competitive. However, this complementarity can be undermined if we fail to use language that supports the distinctions between the two perspectives. Cobb lists several terms that are often used differently by constructivist and sociocultural theorists (p. 13). However, there is a crucial missing term. This is the word knowledge.

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