Publication 7260

Walshe G. (2020) Radical Constructivism – von Glasersfeld. In: Akpan B. & Kennedy T. J. (eds.) Science education in theory and practice. Springer, Cham: 359–371. Fulltext at
Radical constructivism was defined by von Glasersfeld as a theory of knowing that provides a pragmatic approach to questions about reality, truth, and human understanding. Radical constructivism draws heavily on Jean Piaget’s constructivism, but also on ideas about epistemology, or how we come to acquire knowledge, from British empiricism, Kant’s idealism, and Saussure’s structuralism, among others. Following Piaget, von Glasersfeld argued that we construct our concepts and our understanding of the world, developmentally. Knowledge is categorized by its viability in the domain of experience, rather than by the traditional philosophical position that it is constitutive of Truth, that is, that it corresponds to an objective reality. The two basic principles of radical constructivism are that knowledge is not passively received through the senses but is actively constructed by the cognizing subject, the learner, and that the function of cognition is organization of the experiential world rather than discovery of an independent reality. This chapter gives an overview of the theory underpinning radical constructivism and explores its implications for science education. It also examines critiques of radical constructivism, such as it neglects the social aspect of cognition and that it leads to an anti-realist stance on science teaching and learning.

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