Anderson H. & Goolishian H. A. (1990) Beyond Cybernetics: Comments on Atkinson and Heath’s “Further Thoughts on Second-Order Family Therapy”. Family Process 29: 157–163. https://cepa.info/4096

Atkinson B. J. & Heath A. W. (1990) Further thoughts on second-order family therapy – This time it’s personal. Family Process 29: 145–155. https://cepa.info/4097

A series of articles has recently appeared in which implications of second-order cybernetics for the practice of family therapy have been discussed. In this article, we attempt to advance the discussion by addressing ideas that we think have not been adequately emphasized thus far. Specifically proposed are ideas about conditions that might facilitate the emergence of consciously pragmatic strategy informed by the kind of systemic wisdom that delicately balances natural systems without the benefit of human planning. It is argued that a shift in the personal habits of knowing and acting that typically organize individual human experience is required. After attempting to specify what this shift might involve, implications of these ideas for the practice of family therapy and for human action in general are discussed.

Bachmann P. A., Walde P., Luisi P. L. & Lang J. (1990) Self-replicating reverse micelles and chemical autopoiesis. Journal of the American Chemical Society 112(22): 8200–8201.

Excerpt: In conclusion, this work confidently demonstrates that the reverse micellar system presented here is endowed with the property of self-replication. Since the reaction is localized within the boundary of the structure itself, and since the reaction leads to the production of the components of the boundary which in terms define the identity of the structure, this work also provides the first chemical example of autopoietic organization. The fidelity of self-replication is not perfect, as the dimensions of the micelles become smaller from generation to generation; however, this “single-phase autopoietic cycle” can in principle be amended by a continuous supply of water. More generally, micellar systems appear as suitable model systems for autopoiesis; and we are presently pursuing this work with a CTAB-based micellar aqueous system and with a lecithin-based liposomal system.

Bettoni M. C. (1990) Cognition, semantics and computers. Poetics 19(1–2): 65–97.

Models of cognition and language currently in use as frameworks for computer applications present a clear disequilibrium: they neglect productive mental activities, as for instance synthesis, and over-estimate receptive ones, as analysis. The paper focuses on the Kantian concept of object-synthesis as a basic mental mechanism and underlines its importance for an equilibrated model of cognitive processing. Integration of the Kantian approach with Ceccato’s model of mental operations could allow to implement synthetic operations in computer applications. A syntactic parser (von Glasersfeld and Pisani, 1970) which implements Ceccato’s approach to cognition, semantics and linguistics is reproposed to the attention of AI researchers: it could be used as a basis for a modern implementation of object-synthesis in knowledge representation and natural language processing.

Boxer P. & Kenny V. (1990) The Economy of Discourses: A third order cybernetics? Human Systems Management 9(4): 205–224. https://cepa.info/2383

This paper introduces the idea of, and necessity for, a 'third-order cybernetics'. It does this through the critique and problematisation of the ontology of the observer as elaborated within a second-order cybernetics. The necessity for this third-order is directly generated from our work as strategy consultants and our needs to evolve an effective, coherent and ethical consultancy practice. The paper draws primarily on the writings of Lacan and Maturana to provide the epistemological presumptions upon which we generate a new characterisation of, and approach to, the business organisation. This new approach for the understanding of the business organisation is presented as an 'Economy of Discourses'. This Economy is a description of the effects of a third-order in the second-order observer's invention of himself as subject. We have formulated this approach as an aid for diagnosis, intervention and prognosis in our work with business organisations. We include two case studies, one of a chemicals-based manufacturer, the other of a large accountancy practice. In these two cases we seek to unpack and illustrate the way in which it is possible to use the new approach, and to highlight the principles which allow the consultant maximal movement and effectiveness in relation to his client system. We end by outlining the implications of our approach for an ethics of consultancy.

Brooks J. G. (1990) Teachers and students: Constructivists forging new connections. Educational Leadership 47(5): 68–71.

Educators must understand two opposing traditions in education, the mimetic and the transformative. Whereas traditional lesson structuring stresses concept introduction, constructivism emphasizes exploration. To constructivists, teachers strike the delicate balance between teaching for fact and skill acquisition and teaching for independent and expert thinking.

Clements D. H. & Battista M. T. (1990) Constructivist Learning and Teaching. Arithmetic Teacher 38: 34–35. https://cepa.info/6872

Excerpt: Radical changes have been advocated in recent reports on mathematics education, such as NCTM’s Curricu- lum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics 1989) and Everybody Counts (MSEB and National Research Council 1989). Unfortunately, many educators are fo- cusing on alterations in content rather than the reports’ recommendations for fundamental changes in instruc- tional practices. Many of these instructional changes can best be understood from a constructivist perspec- tive. Although references to constructivist approaches are pervasive, practical descriptions of such approaches have not been readily accessible. Therefore, to promote dialogue about instructional change, each “Research into Practice” column this year will illustrate how a constructivist approach to teaching might be taken for a specific topic in mathematics.

Cobb P. (1990) A constructivist perspective on information-processing theories of mathematical activity. International Journal of Educational Research 14(1): 67–92.

A distinction is made between weak and strong research programs in cognitive science, the latter being characterized by an emphasis on the development of runnable computer programs. The paper focuses on the strong research program and initially considers situations in which it claims to have advanced our understanding of mathematical activity. It is concluded that the program’s characterization of students as environmentally driven systems leads to: (a) a treatment of mathematical activity in isolated, narrow, formal domains; (b) a failure to deal with relevance, common sense, and context, and (c) a separation of conceptual thought from sensory-motor action. Taken together, these conclusions imply a failure to deal adequately with the issue of mathematical meaning. In general, the program’s primary focus appears to be on programmable mechanisms rather than fundamental problems of mathematical cognition. The purview of the discussion is then widened to consider the strong program’s difficulties in dealing with social interaction, intellectual communities, and the hidden curriculum. It is noted that instructional implications derived from this program typically involve the organization of mathematical stimuli that make explicit or salient the relevant properties of a propositional mathematical environment. Finally, it is argued that some members of the strong program have recently acknowledged that it has limitations. The possibility of a rapprochement in which the strong program is supplanted by a form of social constructivism is discussed.

Cobb P., Wood T. & Yackel E. (1990) Classrooms as learning environments for teachers and researchers. In: Davis R. C. M. N. N. (ed.) Constructivist views on the teaching and learning of mathematics. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Reston VA: 125–146.

Confrey J. (1990) What constructivism implies for teaching. In: Davis R. B., Maher C. A. & Noddings N. (eds.) Constructivist views on the teaching and learning of mathematics. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Reston VA: 107–124. https://cepa.info/3879

In this chapter, a critique of direct instruction is followed by a theoretical discussion of constructivism, and by a consideration of what constructivism means to a classroom teacher. A model of instruction is proposed with six components: the promotion of student autonomy, the development of reflective processes, the construction of case histories, the identification and negotiation of tentative solution paths, the retracing and group discussion of the paths, and the adherence to the intent of the materials. Examples of each component are provided.