Publication 4690

Tobin K. & Tippins D. (1993) Constructivism as a referent for teaching and learning. In: Tobin K. (ed.) The practice of constructivism in science education. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale NJ: 3–21. Fulltext at
What does it mean to use constructivism as a referent? Tobin and Tippins consider constuctivism as a set of beliefs about knowing and knowledge that can be used to analyze the learning potential of any situation. In this way, it becomes a tool for critical reflection, a referent for deciding whether teacher and learner roles are likely to be more productive in given situations. Constructivism provides a different way of thinking about education. In science education, for example, it makes no sense to think solely about the disciplines of science in the absence of learners if all knowledge must be individually constructed. Likewise, the debate over whether to emphasize concepts or process has little meaning because, from a constructivist point of view, making sense of science is a dialectical process involving both content and process. The authors provide numerous examples from research studies to enliven the presentation of their position. They extend the discussion to include use of constructivism as a referent for educational research, proposing that the metaphor of researcher as truth seeker be replaced with one of researcher as learner. They conclude with the observation that constructivism is not a unitary construct nor is it the only referent for educational actions. However, it is an important one.

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