Publication 5193

Cobb T. (1999) Applying constructivism: A test for the learner-as-scientist. Educational Technology Research and Development 47(3): 15–31.
Constructivist learning theory predicts that knowledge encoded from data by learners themselves will be more flexible, transferable, and useful than knowledge encoded for them by experts and transmitted to them by an instructor or other delivery agent. If this prediction is correct, then learners should be modeled as scientists and use the reasoning and technologies of scientists to construct their own knowledge. However, it cannot be taken for granted that the prediction is correct, or correct in every knowledge domain. The present study attempts to establish conditions in which the prediction can be operationalized and tested. It reports on the adaptation of constructivist principles to instructional design in a particular domain, second language vocabulary acquisition. Students learning English for academic purposes in the Sultanate of Oman followed one of two approaches to vocabulary expansion, learning pre-encoded dictionary definitions of words, or constructing definitions for themselves using an adapted version of the computational tools of lexicographers. After 12 weeks, both groups were equal in definitional knowledge of target words, but lexicography group students were more able to transfer their word knowledge to novel contexts.
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