Education has institutionalized a process that reifies cultures, ecological communities, and ultimately evolution itself. This enclosure has lessened our sensitivity to the pedagogical (eteragogical) nature of our lived relations with other people and with other living beings. By acknowledging that learning and teaching go on between species, humans can regain an eteragogical sense of the interspecies curricula within which they exist. This article explores interspecies lived curricula through a selection of ideas from ecopragmatist Anthony Weston, and cybernetician Gregory Bateson, and through lived experiences with shorebirds of Lake Ontario. Some gulls and a tern teach the author to enrich and diversify, rather than constrict, the potentiality of life. In so doing, being ecological and being educative become unified concepts. Relevance: The publication is concerned with the relational implications between humans and other species of Bateson’s cybernetic theory of learning.
Context: Public universities in South Africa are currently facing the challenge of decolonising knowledge. This change requires a review of curriculums, as well as teaching and learning with the goal of embracing the epistemology of the learners, addressing issues such as social justice and transformation. Problem: Human communication is subject to several perceptual errors in both listening and seeing, which challenges the success of the communication in the education system. The ability of the teacher and the learners to effectively communicate with one another is a factor for the success of each reaching their goals. The teacher imparts her knowledge in the classroom, but according to von Foerster, “[i]t is the listener, not the speaker, who determines the meaning of an utterance,” for the listener contextualises this information based on her own past lived experience. Thus, the student’s epistemology and her expression of her understanding is integral in the classroom context and should be actively included into the education system. Method: I present a cybernetic approach to the teacher-learner system, challenging traditional ideas about the role of each actor within the system, with special attention given to Pask’s conversation theory. Results: Early empirical findings suggest that a conversational contextual approach results in higher student involvement and better memory retention among the learners. Conversational approaches that are epistemologically inclusive diffuse social problems where the student groups require their individual worldviews to be reflected within the curriculum. This reduces the friction of competing epistemologies within the education system, moving toward a co-created contextually-driven knowledge system. Implications: Many educators would like deeper engagement from their learners but have not found a way to successfully engage the student group. A cybernetic approach is one method that can be adopted to remedy this. This is particularly useful in contexts where there is cultural diversity and impending social change. Constructivist content: I address von Glasersfeld’s points on human cognition, linking it to Austin’s speech acts.
Diverse forms of constructivism can be found in the literature today. They exhibit a commonality regarding certain classical positions that they oppose – a unity in their negative identities – but a sometimes wild multiplicity and incompatibility regarding the positive proposals that they put forward. In particular, some constructivisms propose an epistemological idealism, with a concomitant relativism, while others are explicitly opposed to such positions, and move in multifarious different directions. This is a potentially confusing situation, and has resulted in some critics branding all constructivisms with the charge of relativism, and throwing out the baby with the bath water. In addition, since the epistemological foundations of even non-relativist constructivisms are not as familiar as the classical positions, there is a risk of mis-interpretation of constructivisms and their consequences, even by some who endorse them, not to mention those who criticize. Because I urge that some version of constructivism is an epistemological necessity, this situation strikes me as seriously unfortunate for philosophy, and potentially dangerous for the practice of education.
Context: Constructivist teachers who find themselves working within an educational system that adopts a realist epistemology, may find themselves at odds with their own beliefs when they catch themselves paying closer attention to the knowledge authorities intend them to teach rather than the knowledge being constructed by their learners. Method: In the preliminary analysis of the mathematical learning of six low-performing Year 7 boys in a Maltese secondary school, whom one of us taught during the scholastic year 2014-15, we constructed a conceptual framework which would help us analyze the extent to which he managed to be sensitive to constructivism in a typical classroom setting. We describe the development of the framework M-N-L (Mathematics-Negotiation-Learner) as a viable analytical tool to search for significant moments in the lessons in which the teacher appeared to engage in what we define as “constructivist teaching” (CT) during mathematics lessons. The development of M-N-L is part of a research program investigating the way low-performing students make mathematical sense of new notation with the help of the software Grid Algebra. Results: M-N-L was found to be an effective instrument which helped to determine the extent to which the teacher was sensitive to his own constructivist beliefs while trying to negotiate a balance between the mathematical concepts he was expected to teach and the conceptual constructions of his students. Implications: One major implication is that it is indeed possible for mathematics teachers to be sensitive to the individual constructions of their learners without losing sight of the concepts that society, represented by curriculum planners, deems necessary for students to learn. The other is that researchers in the field of education may find M-N-L a helpful tool to analyze CT during typical didactical situations established in classroom settings.
Context: There is a movement to change education so that it is adequate to social expectations and uses the full potential of technology. However, there has been no significant breakthrough in this area and there is no clear evidence why. Problem: A potential issue explaining why education falls behind is the way educators focus on education. There is a possibility that a significant step in the learning process is routinely neglected. Method: Two different approaches to using IT in education are tested in two different environments: a university level course based on constructionism and IBL projects for secondary school students. Results: It is possible to apply constructionism in education, but there are still problems. They are not related to how students construct knowledge, but how they deconstruct knowledge. Implications: The most significant problem of deconstruction is that it requires creative skills. This makes it very difficult to formalize it and to provide effective recommendations for its application. Constructivist Content: Deconstruction is a prerequisite of construction, thus deconstructionism deserves more attention and study. A proper application of deconstructionism will make it possible to reconstruct education in a way that is impossible with the current approaches.
Context: In 2015, we are surrounded by tools and technologies for creating and making, thinking and learning. But classroom “learning” is often focused on learning about the tool/technology itself, rather than learning with or through the technology. Problem: A constructionist theory of learning offers useful ways for thinking about how technology can be included in the service of learning in K-12 classrooms. To support constructionism in the classroom, we need to focus on supporting teachers, who necessarily serve as the agents of classroom-level innovations. This article explores a central question: How can we support teachers to engage with constructionism as a way to think beyond a technocentric view in the classroom? Method: I approach this work from the perspective of a designer, using the process of supporting teachers working with the Scratch programming language in K-12 classrooms as a central example. I draw on reflections from six years of the ScratchEd project, which includes interviews with 30 teachers, and observations from teacher professional development events and an online community of educators. Results: I describe five sets of tensions that I encountered while designing the ScratchEd model of professional development: tensions between (1) tool and learning, (2) direction and discovery, (3) individual and group, (4) expert and novice, and (5) actual and aspirational. I describe how these tensions are negotiated within the elements of the PD model (an online community, participatory meetups, and an online workshop). Implications: The tensions I describe are not specific to Scratch, and can serve as a more general model for PD designers to scrutinize and critique. Constructivist content: This work contributes to ongoing conversations and questions about how to support constructivist/constructionist approaches in classrooms.
Context: Humberto Maturana has generated a coherent and extensive explicatory matrix that encompasses his research in neurophysiology, cognition, language, emotion, and love. Purpose: Can we formulate a map of Maturana’s work in a manner that is consistent with the systemic matrix it represents and that serves as an aid for understanding Maturana’s philosophy without reifying its representation? Method: Our arguments are based on experience gained from teaching and presentations. Results: We present a map that that represents Maturana’s main contributions as clusters of notions clustered according to how we see them to be related to each other as a projection of a matrix of ideas onto a two-dimensional space. We claim that there are many paths through these clusters of ideas. Though ideas relevant to individuals are obtained from various partial perspectives, a deep understanding of any element is dependent on an understanding of the whole matrix. Furthermore, we summarize the contributions to this special issue on Maturana.
In a previous paper, an interpretation of spirituality along constructivist lines was proposed (Gash and Shine Thompson, 2002). One of the lines of exploration discussed personal transformation as a possible consequence of an experience of an epiphany – a moment of grace. Epiphanies are first, grounded in constructivist psychology as moments when a person shifts levels to reach new understandings (Gregory Bateson, 1987). Epiphanies are also moments of insight that allow the possibility of personal transformation, and hence potentially desirable experiences of spiritual growth. In the present paper we outline a series of experiences of epiphanies in children’s learning in the context of a project on constructionist learning led by one of us – Deirdre Butler. The purpose of the paper is to make a case for the importance of such moments as providing opportunities for personal growth, encapsulated in the title of the project EmpoweringMinds. Relevance: The value of wonder in education; using digital technology in classrooms
This paper draws attention to the literature in the areas of learning, specifically, constructivism, conceptual change and cognitive development. It emphasizes the contribution of such research to our understanding of the learning process. This literature provides guidelines for teachers, at all levels, in their attempt to have their students achieve learning with understanding. Research about the constructive nature of students’ learning processes, about students’ mental models, and students’ misconceptions have important implications for teachers who wish to model scientific reasoning in an effective fashion for their students. This paper aims to communicate this research to teachers, textbook authors, and college professors who involved in the preparation of science teachers. This paper is divided into two major parts. The first part concentrates on a critical review of the three most influential learning theories and constructivist view of learning and discusses the foundation upon which the constructivist theory of learning has been rooted. It seeks an answer to the question of “What are some guiding principles of constructivist thinking that we must keep in mind when we consider our role as science teachers?.” The second part of this paper moves toward describing the nature of students’ alternative conceptions, the ways of changing cognitive structure, and cognitive aspects of learning and teaching science.