Radical Constructivism is currently a very influential view in mathematics education. This paper examines its philosophical roots through a review of the book Radical Constructivism by Ernst von Glasersfeld. It begins by describing the structure of the book, and then considers a number of philosophical issues raised by the book. The paper concludes with some reflections on the relationship between philosophy and mathematics education which the book provoked
Open peer commentary on the target article “From Objects to Processes: A Proposal to Rewrite Radical Constructivism” by Siegfried J. Schmidt. Upshot: My suggestion is that the shift from objects to processes can be seen as grounded in the processes of self-generation common to all living organisms. Specifically human cognition is a subsequent evolutionary emergence.
Excerpt: Being grateful to von Glasersfeld for having pointed out to me what I now accept, I have no desire to attack radical constructivism. There are, however, three ways in which I find it seriously, even radically, deficient, and I want in this chapter to set them out in the hope that my doing so will be some use where I, and apparently von Glasersfeld, care most about usefulness, in education. These deficiencies are a lack of due emphasis on the construction of the self, whether over against the world or as a part of it, the denial of the possibility of knowledge of the world, and von Glasersfeld’s ignoring of the massive social assistance in one’s construction of one’s notion of the world. The latter two of these deficiencies have considerable importance for education, and that is my reason for airing my criticisms in this place.
Upshot: Michael Tomasello is Director of the Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology and Co-Director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. He completed his PhD with Ernst as his supervisor in 1980. In his reminiscence essay he describes the “total enculturation” he experienced on encountering Ernst von Glasersfeld.
Open peer commentary on the target article “Who Conceives of Society?” by Ernst von Glasersfeld. Excerpt: In the light of the almost brilliant equilibrium of the author, who manages to compose a resourceful explanation, switching between the notional conditionality and the expected contextual understanding, I intend to focus on the interdisciplinary potential of some suggestions that offer new perspectives on conceiving society, which are driven by a non-analytical and holistic vision.
Radical constructvists believe that knowledge is not disembodied but intimately related to the action and experience the learner. It is always contextual and never separated from the knower. There is no objective reality that is independent of human mental activity. Radical constructivism shares many philosophical perspectives with the semiotic model of Stamper (1993) Semiotics claims that knowledge of the wodd is mediated through signs. A radical subjective synthesis of semiotics and radical constructivism leads to two axioms: There is no known reality without an agent, and the agent constructs reality through his action. This paper begins with a brief review of the philosophies of radical constructivism and semiotics, followed by a discussion of the implications of semiotics for radical constructivist leaming. It concludes with the design of a constructivist learning environment using the semiotic perspective as manifested by Stamper.
Context: This paper outlines how radical constructivist theory has led to a particular methodological technique, developing second-order models of student thinking, that has helped mathematics educators to be more effective teachers of their students. Problem: The paper addresses the problem of how radical constructivist theory has been used to explain and engender more viable adaptations to the complexities of teaching and learning. Method: The paper presents empirical data from teaching experiments that illustrate the process of second-order model building. Results: The result of the paper is an illustration of how second-order models are developed and how this process, as it progresses, supports teachers to be more effective. Implications: This paper has the implication that radical constructivism has the potential to impact practice.