Hugh Gash worked at St Patrick’s College Dublin for many years which is now incorporated into Dublin City University. He is interested in constructivism and its applications in psychology and education and has published in these areas.
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
Plant growth, development and reproduction are fundamental concepts in biology; yet there is a recorded lack of motivation for young people to grapple with these concepts. Here we present the “DigitalSeed” toy for making investigations around these concepts more accessible to children through hands-on digital interaction. This is part of an on-going project investigating improved ways of learning involving digital media. To date, this project has addressed the learning of 4–5 year olds, but it is anticipated that the project could be extended to older children in mainstream and special needs education. In the case of older children, specific curricula requirements would be addressed, although this is a secondary goal. Relevance: The relevance to constructivism is that it provides an alternative approach to a difficult topic, viz., plant nutrition, where the learner must navigate between two realities: the virtual and the “real.”
There are a number of important similarities in John Dewey’s and Jean Piaget’s epistemologies. These include their emphasis on cognitive process, their grounding concepts in opertions and their implicit radical epistemology. Dewey’s constructivism is presented in the context of Bridgman’s operationalism each presented as deeper and very different from the operational definition of the contemporary psychology. The paper proposes a consistently radical constructivism as a clarification of views held in the mainstream psychology of the time. Relevance: Part of the collection edited by Ernst von Glasersfeld and Charles Smock in 1974 to launch Radical Constructivism.
Two aspects of Vico’s constructivist epistemology are germane to contemporary cognitive developmental psychology. These aspects are Vico’s account of cognitive operations and of the limits to human knowledge of the world. Drawing on Vico’s epistemological treatise, and on contemporary commentary on Vico, it is argued that this eighteenth-century constructivist epistemology is useful in two ways. First, by being a consistent, and so radical, constructivism it may be helpful in clarifying the meaning of the environment in Piaget’s theory. Second, the description of mental operations may provide a way of overcoming objections to the overly formal quality of Piaget’s basic concrete-operational structures.
This paper is about a two year project to promote equality of opportunity for boys and girls in schools. It is made up of three interwoven elements: first, a description of the project; second, a constructivist analysis of gender perceptions in children; and third, an account of the ways in which ideas on how to do a project like this developed as we did it. The description of the project includes its origins, methods, and results. The acquisition of gender stereotypes is analysed from a constructivist viewpoint and the educational implications are considered. The aim of the project was to promote more adequate understandings of the ways in which men and women, girls and boys feel and act. The principal target was the children’s understandings, but the teacher’s own understandings were also of interest. Ideas about how to do a project like this developed during its course. Initially a set of teaching strategies was prescribed; in the second year the focus was more on the child and his or her identity while ensuring there was adequate time to discuss teaching strategies with the teachers. By the end of the project the ideas on tactics for teachers were refined during the project and materials in the form of stories and ideas for lessons were edited. A final comment I would have is that teachers who wish to be fully involved in this work will need to form self-organizing groups to support each other with plans, materials, and encouragement.
How might teachers think about moving to challenge prejudice against persons with handicap? Drawing on Piaget’s and Bateson’s constructivist theories, prejudices are examined in terms of the processes by which they are formed within the individual, the role they play in identity, and the reasons they may be resistant to change. Consideration is then given to strategies which may be useful in inviting reconsideration of cognitive items of this type. Looking at the learner’s experience these include certain types of questioning strategies and counterexamples. Looking at the teacher’s experience a number of techniques are recommended including, neutrality, circular questioning, and parenthesising. Relevance: This is a constructivist approach proposing a method of attitude change in the context of special education. Clearly though, it has implications for attitude change generally.
A research programme was initiated to promote positive attitudes towards children with special needs. Fifteen students each taught 4 lessons to children from second to sixth class in Primary Schools. Their approach was constructivist involving discussion and activities designed to provide opportunities for the children to reconsider their ideas. A post-test was given to 465 experimental and 326 control children. Experimental children were different from controls in being more prosocial in a number of ways. Children who knew somebody with a mental handicap were affected by the programme differently in comparison with inexperienced children, largely by becoming more aware of the difficulties of children with special needs. There were a number of age and gender differences in the ways children think about mental handicap. Relevance: This paper shows how constructivist classroom techniques can be used to facilitate children’s thinking about children with a disability
Excerpt: The purpose of this paper is to make explicit some ethical consequences of a theory of cognitive development, and in the process ‘to specify some practical educational implications. Cognitive developmental theory could be described as a model of the changes which occur in construing different constructs. I draw attention to the use of the word “construe” since there is a history of complaint made against Piagetian and neo-Piagetian writing in failing to deal with emotion adequately and with being overly cognitive. Construing is intended to indicate my dissatisfaction with the Cartesian separation of emotion and cognition in construing about these issues. I will, however, continue to use words such as “concepts” which may carry overly cognitive connotations which are not intended.
Our task is to work together to create learning contexts to promote awareness and mutual understanding amongst young European citizens. In this paper (1) I introduce the constructivist approach, (2) present results of three studies of baseline attitudes of Irish primary children towards children from (a) France, (b) Greece and (c) from the Third World, and (3) provide data of effects of classroom discussions on their views. I believe that this work is useful in understanding the problems associated with our task. The approach I take is explicitly constructivist and has grown out of the work of John Dewey, George Kelly, and Jean Piaget. Relevance: A constructivist approach to changing attitudes towards children from other countries.
A total of 305 urban primary school children participated in an educational programme to promote awareness of children with special needs. Subjects were pretested to assess their initial attitudes towards and prior experience of children with special needs and posttested to see how their attitudes changed as a result of an educational intervention programme based on constructivist ideas. Programme effects, which included both augmentation of some positive attitudes and diminution of sympathy for children with special needs, were strongly correlated with grade and gender differences in initial attitudes. Whether the drop in sympathy constitutes normalization or permission to be dismissive requires further examination. Relevance: This study shows the implications of using constructivist approaches in classrooms. It seems clear that changing attitudes may not always have the desired effects, and that longer term interventions may be needed.