The authors point out the difference between the theory of constructivism and its practical application, and they argue that the consequences of implementing constructivism in the classroom will be considerably more challenging than might be anticipated from the simple slogans that advocates repeat.
Bächtold M. (2013) What do students “construct” according to constructivism in science education? Research in Science Education 43(6): 2477–2496. https://cepa.info/4653
This paper aims at shedding light on what students can “construct” when they learn science and how this construction process may be supported. Constructivism is a pluralist theory of science education. As a consequence, I support, there are several points of view concerning this construction process. Firstly, I stress that constructivism is rooted in two fields, psychology of cognitive development and epistemology, which leads to two ways of describing the construction process: either as a process of enrichment and/or reorganization of the cognitive structures at the mental level, or as a process of building or development of models or theories at the symbolic level. Secondly, I argue that the usual distinction between “personal constructivism” (PC) and “social constructivism” (SC) originates in a difference of model of reference: the one of PC is Piaget’s description of “spontaneous” concepts, assumed to be constructed by students on their own when interacting with their material environment, the one of SC is Vygotsky’s description of scientific concepts, assumed to be introduced by the teacher by means of verbal communication. Thirdly, I support the idea that, within SC, there are in fact two trends: one, in line with Piaget’s work, demonstrates how cooperation among students affects the development of each individual’s cognitive structures; the other, in line with Vygotsky’s work, claims that students can understand and master new models only if they are introduced to the scientific culture by their teacher. Fourthly, I draw attention to the process of “problem construction” identified by some French authors. Finally, I advocate for an integrated approach in science education, taking into account all the facets of science learning and teaching mentioned above and emphasizing their differences as well as their interrelations. Some suggestions intended to improve the efficiency of science teaching are made.
The paper compares social systems theory and social network theory in terms of what it is they respectively seek to elucidate. Whereas systems theory focuses on problems of difference and reproduction, network theory deals with problems of identity and control, the former privileging communication and the latter action. To understand their different foci, it may help to keep in mind that systems theory is a child of computing’s formative years, whereas the more recent success of network theory, despite its roots in a far older tradition, accompanies the advent of the Internet. The paper goes on to compare the two theories with respect to questions of mathematical modeling, culture, and self-reference, which interestingly are closely related. It proposes a mathematical modeling of culture, which uses Spencer-Brown’s notion of form to combine variables of communication, consciousness, and life into one network relying on three systems capable of reproducing themselves. The paper is relevant for constructivist approaches because it shows how systems are constructed relying on networks within their own interpretation as culture.
Barbaras R. (2001) Merleau-Ponty and nature. Research in Phenomenology 31(1): 22–38. https://cepa.info/4050
The course on nature coincides with the re-working of Merleau-Ponty’s breakthrough towards an ontology and therefore plays a primordial role. The appearance of an interrogation of nature is inscribed in the movement of thought that comes after the Phenomenology of Perception. What is at issue is to show that the ontological mode of the perceived object – not the unity of a positive sense but the unity of a style that shows through in filigree in the sensible aspects has a universal meaning, that the description of the perceived world can give way to a philosophy of perception and therefore to a theory of truth. The analysis of linguistic expression to which the philosophy of perception leads opens out onto a definition of meaning as institution, understood as what inaugurates an open series of expressive appropriations. It is this theory of institution that turns the analysis of the perceived in the direction of a reflection on nature: the perceived is no longer the originary in its difference from the derived but the natural in its difference from the instituted. Nature is the “non-constructed, non-instituted,” and thereby, the source of expression: “nature is what has a sense without this sense having been posited by thought.”\\The first part of the course, which consists in a historical overview, must not be considered as a mere introduction. In fact, the problem of nature is brought out into the open by means of the history of Western metaphysics, in which Descartes is the emblematic figure. The problem consists in the duality at once unsatisfactory and unsurpassable – between two approaches to nature: the one which accentuates its determinability and therefore its transparency to the understanding; the other which emphasizes the irreducible facticity of nature and tends therefore to valorize the viewpoint of the senses. To conceive nature is to constitute a concept of it that allows us to “take possession” of this duality, that is, to found the duality. The second part of the course attempts to develop this concept of nature by drawing upon the results of contemporary science. Thus a philosophy of nature is sketched that can be summarized in four propositions: 1) the totality is no less real than the parts; 2) there is a reality of the negative and therefore no alternative between being and nothingmess; 3) a natural event is not assigned to a unique spatio-temporal localization; and 4) there is generality only as generativity.
Barnes G. & Možina M. (2020) Metalogue: How to Understand Bateson? In Memoriam Graham Barnes (1936-2020). Constructivist Foundations 16(1): 101–107. https://cepa.info/6827
Context: For Graham Barnes, the starting point of his research was the observation that most psychotherapists are trained in a theory-centered style of practice, neglecting epistemological and hermeneutical aspects. The consequence is an absence of critical self-reflection about some basic assumptions of psychotherapy theories and clinical practices in the psychotherapy community. When using a particular theory, therapists forget that the theory is “using” them, as well, i.e., they are unaware of the effects the theory has on them and on their relationships with clients. As an alternative to this ignorance, Barnes developed the concept, research project and clinical application of what he called “second-order psychotherapy.” Problem: How can we encourage therapists to engage in systematic self-reflection on the influence of theory on the content and structure of their therapeutic conversations? Following Bateson’s epistemological guidelines, we give an example of how our conversation about understanding his ideas includes conversation about our understanding of the conversation about an understanding of his ideas. Method: Bateson created a new didactic form of dialogical presentation to facilitate the understanding of knowing, called a metalogue, in which the content and the structure of the conversation are intertwined in such a way that it becomes more transparent how the metalevel of relationships between the speakers influences the content and vice versa. Results: By presenting our dialogues as an exemplary metalogue, we propose that metalogues could be a valuable didactic way for promoting epistemological and constructivist teaching and learning, not only for psychotherapists, but for all professionals who need better understanding of their understanding. This second-order understanding opens the space for the inclusion of self-reflection on our relationship (and its evolution) and how our relationship has shaped our understanding. Implications: Our proposal is also meant as an encouragement for contemporary constructivist thinkers to continue to reflect on Bateson’s contribution to the foundation and evolution of constructivism.
Bersini H. (2002) Self-assertion versus self-recognition: A tribute to Francisco Varela. In: Timmis J. & Bentley P. J. (eds.) Proceeding of the first international conference on artificial immune system (ICARIS-2002). University of Kent, Canterbury: 103–108. https://cepa.info/4354
Ten years ago, a group of researchers, led by Francisco Varela, were proposing an alternative vision of the immune system main behavior and function. I was part of this group. This new vision saw the immune system not as behaving distinctively with self and non-self or according to any dichotomy imposed a priori and from outside (the self-recognition vision), but rather as behaving in a unique way. From this indifferent behavior, any external impact would progressively been treated in two different ways, reactive and tolerant, but now, consequently and from inside the system (the self-assertion view). This paper will recall, through a very artificial simulation, the difference existing between these two visions. Also at that time, we believed that, from an engineering perspective, this new vision, emphasizing more the adaptability and the need for endogenous constraints than the recognition and the defensive ability, although less obvious to accept than the classical defensive one, should be more beneficial. These last ten years proved that we haven’t been convincing enough, and in this paper I resume the crusade.
Beyes T. P. (2005) Observing observers: von Foerster, Luhmann, and management thinking. Kybernetes 34: 448–459. https://cepa.info/7686
Purpose: The paper discusses possible implications of Heinz von Foerster’s notion of second‐order cybernetics for management thinking. The purpose of this paper is to outline challenges of as well as prospective further developments for management theory that emanate from second‐order cybernetics. Design/methodology/approach – As a conceptual paper, the paper tries to develop its findings through theoretically applying von Foerster’s insights to management thinking’s conventional assumptions. When looking for applications of von Foerster’s approach within the social sciences, at least in german‐speaking countries one sooner or later comes across Niklas Luhmann’s system sociology. Hence, Luhmann’s version of the theory of the observer is introduced and its take on organization and management is briefly outlined. Drawing upon von Foerster’s and Luhmann’s reflections, possible implications for management thinking are presented – ideas that might be disagreeable for “classical” management science but might set out a path for further developments of management thinking. Findings: What difference might second‐order cybernetics (and autopoietic systems sociology) make for management thinking? As a conclusion, deliberately poignant statements are formulated, calling for a higher degree of self‐reflection, for critical readings of conventional texts, for more complex descriptions of organizations and for a more modest, low‐key take on management theory’s endeavours. Originality/value – Whereas first‐order cybernetics has been fairly well‐received in management theory, second‐order cybernetics, which poses troubling questions to conventional epistemologies, remained relatively unpopular. Acts of “observing observers” reclaim these questions, possibly leading to valuable insights for researchers and reflected practitioners alike.
Open peer commentary on the article “Circularity and the Micro-Macro-Difference” by Manfred Füllsack. Upshot: The target article defends the fundamental role of circularity for systems sciences and the necessity to develop a conceptual and methodological approach to it. The concept of circularity, however, is multifarious, and two of the main challenges in this respect are to provide distinctions between different forms of circularities and explore in detail the roles they play in organizations. This commentary provides some suggestions in this direction with the aim to supplement the perspective presented in the target article with some insights from theoretical biology.
Bitbol M. (2006) Une science de la conscience équitable: L’actualité de la neurophénoménologie de Francisco Varela [A balanced science of consciousness: Francisco Varela’s neurophenomenology]. Intellectica 43: 135–157. https://cepa.info/8076
Francisco Varela’s neurophenomenological research program is still ahead of us. It therefore needs some further philosophical reflections in order to become fully understood, and to avoid mixing it up with other views. Neurophenomenology shares so many features with the mind-brain identity theory that it has sometimes been mistaken for it, and that it also shares some of its explanatory virtues. But it also parts company with the identity theory on a crucial point, so that it is immune of several defects of the latter conception. The major difference is that it deflects theoretical issues onto a methodological plane; it does not state a mind-brain identity, but rather tries to institute a close relationship between the two corresponding methods of investigation. Besides, some sentences of Varela were strongly suggestive of idealism. But once again, this is wrong. Varela does not hold the ontological primacy of lived experience. He only advocates the importance for science of taking into account in its practice all the aspects of experience, be they subjective or objective. A final parallel with evolutionary biology and quantum physics shows that neurophenomenology has reached a high level of epistemological universality.
Bosancic B. & Matijevic M. (2020) Information as a construction. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science 52(2): 620–630. https://cepa.info/8139
The purpose of this review paper is to outline the constructivist approach to the notion of information from two perspectives. The first perspective explores the role of ‘constructed’ information in the ‘constructivist niche’ – a common name for the appropriate viewpoints in different science fields, such as cognitive and neuroscience, psychology, cybernetics and biology of cognition. The second perspective considers library and information science (LIS) papers in which information is treated as a constructed entity. This paper assumed the origin of the notion of information to be a construction as defined in the ‘constructivist niche’ that is based upon communication theory and cybernetics. Conversely, the origin of the notion of information as a construction as per LIS can be found in Bateson’s definition of information as a ‘difference which makes the difference,‘ as well as in the 1970s LIS definition wherein information is associated with the direction of a cognitive viewpoint, as in a ‘cognitive turn’. The study showed that ‘information as a construction‘, except in a few cases, did not play a significant role in the constructivist theories nor in LIS. LIS researchers reduce the concept of information to a subjective, socially-constructed entity which inherently results in different interpretations.