The first part of this paper examines the differences between Piaget’s constructivism, what Papert refers to as“constructionism,” and the socio-constructivist approach as portrayed by Vygotsky. All these views are developmental, and they share the notion that people actively contribute to the construction of their knowledge, by transforming their world. Yet the views also differ, each highlighting on some aspects of how children learn and grow, while leaving other questions unanswered. Attempts at integrating these views [learning through experience, through media, and through others] helps shed light on how people of different ages and venues come to make sense of their experience, and find their place – and voice – in the world. Tools, media, and cutural artifacts are the tangible forms, or mediational means, through which we make sense of our world and negociate meaning with others. In the second part of this paper, I speak to the articulations between make-believe activities and creative symbol-use as a guiding connection to rethink the aims of representations. Simulacrum and simulation, I show, play a key role besides language in helping children ground and mediate their experience in new ways. From computer-based microworlds for constructive learning (Papert’s turtle geometry, TERC’s body-syntonic graphing), to social virtual environments (MUDing). In each case, I discuss the roles of symbolic recreation, and imaginary projection (people’s abilities to build and dwell in their creations) as two powerful heuristic to keep in touch with situations, to bring what’s unknown to mind’s reach, and to explore risky ideas on safe grounds. I draw implications for education.
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.
The contemporary use of the term ‘complexity’ frequently indicates that it is considered a uniﬁed concept. This may lead to a neglect of the range of different theories that deal with the implications related to the notion of complexity. This paper, integrating both the English and the Latin traditions of research associated with this notion, suggests a more nuanced use of the term, thereby avoiding simpliﬁcation of the concept to some of its dominant expressions only. The paper further explores the etymology of ‘complexity’ and offers a chronological presentation of three generations of theories that have shaped its uses; the epistemic and socio-cultural roots of these theories are also introduced. From an epistemological point of view, this reﬂection sheds light on the competing interpretations underlying the deﬁnition of what is considered as complex. Also, from an anthropological perspective it considers both the emancipatory as well as the alienating dimensions of complexity. Based on the highlighted ambiguities, the paper suggests in conclusion that contributions grounded in contemporary theories related to complexity, as well as critical appraisals of their epistemological and ethical legitimacy, need to follow the recursive feedback loops and dynamics that they constitute. In doing so, researchers and practitioners in education should consider their own practice as a learning process that does not require the reduction of the antagonisms and the complementarities that shape its own complexity.
This paper is inspired by Edgar Morin’s paradigm of complexity and his constructivist and non-dualistic critique of scientific and philosophical forms of reductionism. It aims to challenge the fragmentation and the reduction framing the understanding of the notion of “critique” in educational sciences, and more broadly in the academia. Based on a review of the literature identified in French-speaking and English-speaking critical traditions in education, several factors determining the way the idea of critique is reduced are highlighted. Stressing the tacit character of those variables challenges the limits of traditional conceptions of critique in contemporary education. According to the constructivist, complex and non-dualistic position adopted, this paper illustrates the relevance of an epistemological framework integrating more systematically the conditions of emergence, the limitations, as well as the antagonistic, complementary and contradictory relationships, that connect educational theories of critique to one another. Based on this position, this paper finally suggests that a distinction be made between “hypocritique” and “hypercritique” as a semantic artifact, stressing the importance of challenging educational research and theories according to the level of complexity that one may attribute to them.
Excerpt: Education has failed to show steady progress because it has shifted back and forth among simplistic positions such as the associationist and rationalist philosophies. Modern cognitive psychology provides a basis for genuine progress by careful scientific analysis that identifies those aspects of theoretical positions that contribute to student learning and those that do not. Radical constructivism serves as the current exemplar of simplistic extremism, and certain of its devotees exhibit an antiscience bias that, should it prevail, would destroy any hope for progress in education.
Open peer commentary on the article “Cybernetic Foundations for Psychology” by Bernard Scott. Upshot: Based on my personal and professional experiences as a university teacher of social work, systemic psychotherapy, and education, I suggest the concepts of third-order cybernetics and synergetics as a support to creating a more unified and integrated framework of psychology to better understand and deal with complex, self-organizing systems.
Open peer commentary on the article “From Problem Solving to Problem Posing, and from Strategies to Laying Down a Path in Solving: Taking Varela’s Ideas to Mathematics Education Research” by Jérôme Proulx & Jean-François Maheux. Upshot: The aim of this commentary is to extend the work of Proulx and Maheux to include consideration of the teacher-observer whose role (in part) in the mathematics classroom is to ensure that curriculum goals are being met.
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.
Radical constructivism grows out of the belief that knowledge is constructed and legitimated by individuals as they make sense of their experiences in particular contexts and drawing on their own histories. Extending this understanding of learning and ways of knowing to girls as they work in the terrain of science, we argue that honoring student experience as the starting place for science instruction fundamentally alters the nature of science, the purpose of teaching and learning science, and the focus of relationships in science class. The implications for this position are extensive: they suggest that the dynamic relationships between language and cultural background of students and teachers alter the ways in which science education historically has enacted discipline, curriculum and pedagogy. We argue that this is particularly important to understand, for science and science education have historically operated within the masculine domain and working with girls in science in ways that respect their (gendered and cultural) construction of knowledge and their experiences, fundamentally alters the enterprise of science – an idea contradictory to most visions of the purposes of education and current reform efforts in science education, even the most liberal.
Research in mathematics education is a discursive process: It entails the analysis and production of texts, whether in the analysis of what learners say, the use of transcripts, or the publication of research reports. Much research in mathematics education is concerned with various aspects of mathematical thinking, including mathematical knowing, understanding and learning. In this paper, using ideas from discursive psychology, I examine the discursive construction of mathematical thinking in the research process. I focus, in particular, on the role of researchers’ descriptions. Specifically, I examine discursive features of two well-known research papers on mathematical thinking. These features include the use of contrast structures, categorisation and the construction of facts. Based on this analysis, I argue that researchers’ descriptions of learners’ or researchers’ behaviour and interaction make possible subsequent accounts of mathematical thinking.