In the drive to improve standards, the collection and dissemination of numerical data still directs much contemporary educational policy. However, recent publications and debates seemingly attempt to reorient discussion from performance to learning. In support, constructivism is often referenced as a contributor in this endeavour. However, constructivism is not a single unified theory either of knowledge or pedagogy. This article identifies one version of constructivist thinking, social constructivism, both in terms of its underlying epistemology (theory of knowledge) and related pedagogy. Contemporary educational theories are then outlined to demonstrate that many practical solutions and theoretical ideas now presented as ‘good learning and teaching’ have much in common with social constructivist thinking. Finally, the article concludes by identifying two issues that require further discussion and debate if pedagogy of a social constructivist nature is to be considered.
In order to illustrate what is at stake in the definition and in the development of a complex and constructivist epistemology of transformative learning, this chapter introduces Edgar Morin’s paradigm of complexity and explores six challenges that appear particularly illustrative with regards to the advance of research and practices related to transformative learning.
Excerpt: As a young man worrying about the fundamental questions of philosophy, metaphysics, and epistemology, McCulloch set himself the goal of developing an “experimental epistemology”: how can one really understand the mind in terms of the brain? More particularly, he sought to discover “A Logical Calculus Immanent in Nervous Activity.” The present paper will seek to provide some sense of McCulloch’s search for the logic of the nervous system, but will also show that his papers contain contributions to experimental epistemology which provide great insight into the mechanisms of nervous system function without fitting into the mold of a logical calculus. Moreover, McCulloch was not only a scientist but also a storyteller, poet, and memorable “character. ” I will thus interleave a number of characteristic anecdotes into the more objective attempts at scientific history that follow.
It is characteristic of Heinz von Foerster’s approach to the cybernetics of cybernetics that it combines a sense of tight reasoning with the acknowledgment of fundamental ignorance. The article attempts to uncover an epistemological relationship between the reasoning and the ignorance. The relationship is provided for by a razor which reads: what can be described in relation to its composition, is described in vain in relation to its substance. The razor asks for second-order terms instead of first-order terms, or for ontogenetics instead of ontology.
The paper deals with Aristotelian logic as the special case of more general epistemology and sociology of both science and common sense. The Aristotelian principles of identity, of noncontradiction, and of excluded middle are to be supplemented by the secondorder cybernetic, or cybernEthic principles of paradox, of ambivalence, and of control. In this paper we collect some ideas on how to evaluate the scope of Aristotelian logic with respect to the laws of thought they tried to determine and to do so within the historical moment of the impact of the invention of writing possibly triggering this determination. We look at some modern doubts concerning these laws and discovering an understanding of complexity that is not to be resumed under any principle of identity. The invention of sociology, epistemology, and the mathematics of communication follow suit in focusing not only on the observer but more importantly on the distinction between observers to further contextualize any talk of identities and operationalize both talk and fact of contradiction, paradox, and ambivalence.
The key problem of cultural psychology comprises a paradox: while people believe they act on the basis of their own authentic experience, cultural psychologists observe their behavior to be socially patterned. It is argued that, in order to account for those patterns, cultural psychology should take human experience as its analytical starting point. Nevertheless, there is a tendency within cultural psychology to either neglect human experience, by focusing exclusively on discourse, or to consider the structure of this experience to originate in an already produced cultural order. For an alternative approach, we turn to the enactive view of cognition developed by Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela. Their theory of autonomy can provide the epistemological basis for a cultural psychology that explains how experience can become socially patterned in the first place. Cultural life forms are then considered as consensually coordinated, embodied practices.
How may mental activity be conceptualized within the context of the epistemology engendered by cybernetics, and how may that epistemology account for imagination? I argue for an epistemology of imagination that both distinguishes imagination, understanding and interpretation, and unites all three concepts in a dialogical circle of ideas. The processes of distinguishing these concepts (and the processes that give rise to and describe mental activities) are dialogical processes. As dialogical, they fall within the scope of Heinz von Foerster’s work on second-order cybernetics.
Purpose: When reviewing the prospectus of mainstream universities that offer psychology majors, one would be hard-pressed to find any cybernetic approaches included in their course material. This is an unfortunate observation as most psychological problems arise in a relational context. Reasons for this status quo are presented. The purpose of this paper is to reduce obstacles for prospective learners in cybernetic psychology, with the hope that cybernetic psychology may be assimilated and seen as an equal footing paradigm in mainstream psychology teachings. Design/methodology/approach – A popular cybernetics web site is often used by students who are learning cybernetic psychology. Using the responses from students who frequent the online resource, solutions are presented based on the questions that students have asked the author of the site. Findings: Students are taught different therapy paradigms in terms of models; the psychodynamic model, the medical model, the person-centred model; the systems model and so forth. Their position to the model is external and they can critically evaluate the different models and apply each model in an interpretation and analysis of various psychology case studies. Cybernetic psychology becomes problematic when that line of thinking is used. Practical implications: Cybernetic psychology stands as an ethical choice for therapy. Reducing the boundaries for cybernetic therapies to be assimilated in the mainstream context, especially if offered by universities as an equal footing paradigm, which would be in keeping with the WHO’s call for responsible ethical therapy interventions. Originality/value – There is limited information on how to perform cybernetic psychology. This is understandable owing to the nature of cybernetics; however, reliable and stable approaches should still be available for students who are new to this epistemology. There needs to be an entering point into this way of thinking so that cybernetic psychology remains accessible to newcomers.
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.
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.