This paper aims at shedding light on what students can “construct” when they learn science and how this construction process may be supported. Constructivism is a pluralist theory of science education. As a consequence, I support, there are several points of view concerning this construction process. Firstly, I stress that constructivism is rooted in two fields, psychology of cognitive development and epistemology, which leads to two ways of describing the construction process: either as a process of enrichment and/or reorganization of the cognitive structures at the mental level, or as a process of building or development of models or theories at the symbolic level. Secondly, I argue that the usual distinction between “personal constructivism” (PC) and “social constructivism” (SC) originates in a difference of model of reference: the one of PC is Piaget’s description of “spontaneous” concepts, assumed to be constructed by students on their own when interacting with their material environment, the one of SC is Vygotsky’s description of scientific concepts, assumed to be introduced by the teacher by means of verbal communication. Thirdly, I support the idea that, within SC, there are in fact two trends: one, in line with Piaget’s work, demonstrates how cooperation among students affects the development of each individual’s cognitive structures; the other, in line with Vygotsky’s work, claims that students can understand and master new models only if they are introduced to the scientific culture by their teacher. Fourthly, I draw attention to the process of “problem construction” identified by some French authors. Finally, I advocate for an integrated approach in science education, taking into account all the facets of science learning and teaching mentioned above and emphasizing their differences as well as their interrelations. Some suggestions intended to improve the efficiency of science teaching are made.
Many scholars criticize constructivist approaches to psychology for culminating in a nihilistic relativism. This article reviews the problem of relativism within personal construct psychology and social constructionism. It argues that labeling constructivist approaches to psychology as essentially relativist or nonrelativist simplifies the debate by assigning indisputable characteristics to a family of theories. Both relativist and nonrelativist interpretations of personal constructivism and social constructionism are presented in suggesting that the current terms of the relativism debate often hinder constructivists, who are forced to defend themselves against charges of relativism using objectivist terminology. Some common arguments about the advantages and disadvantages of constructivist relativism are outlined and discussed. Further, the implications of relativism for constructivist ethics and action are contemplated, with particular attention paid to the roles of commitment and hermeneutic understanding. The article concludes that, while constructivist psychologists may not agree on whether to endorse or reject relativism, in order to maintain the viability of the constructivist viewpoint, they need to be able to formulate thoughtful responses to those accusing them of relativism.
This chapter reviews constructivist perspectives on personality and psychopathology. Three approaches to constructivism receive attention – personal constructivism, radical constructivism, and social constructionism. The chapter presents a summary of these constructivist theories, including explicit attention to developmental and physiological considerations. Discussion of theoretical boundaries among constructivist theories and between constructivist and nonconstructivist theories occurs, followed by a review of evidence for and against constructivist theories. Finally, the chapter offers predictions for family life, school, work, retirement, and recreation based on constructivist perspectives.