Radical Constructivism Mainstreaming: A Desirable Endeavor? Critical Considerations using Examples from Educational Studies and Learning Theory

Constructivist Foundations 6 (1):58-65 (2010)

Abstract

Context: It is beyond doubt that RC has received a great deal of attention in educational studies and learning theory. But overall, the current situation seems to be rather ambivalent in view of the blurring of the various strands in constructivist discourses and the different ways of distinguishing and foregrounding constructivist positions. Correspondingly, there is a wide range of claims, from the claim that (radical) constructivism represents a mainstream endeavor to attributions of its being outdated, self-refuting or irrelevant. Purpose: The paper seeks to sound out the ambivalent situation of (radical) constructivism between “all” and “nothing” by examples of attributions of meaning to constructivist positions in academic everyday life and by challenging both prevalent criticisms of systemic-constructivist pedagogy and widespread broad classifications in learning theory. Method: The article critically reflects on (1) one-sentence “destructions” of constructivist positions, (2) Pongratz’s criticism of systemic-constructivist pedagogy, and (3) the threefold classification of the world of learning, i.e., behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. Results: Both the current criticism of constructivism as a mainstream endeavor and evolutionary suggestions provided by the threefold classification are criticized. Although some constructivist concepts and distinctions are widely accepted today, often these achievements are not recognized as being rooted in constructivist discourses. Implications: As far as mainstreaming constructivism might be related to power politics, selling the “real thing,” and joining the ranks of truth-oriented Isms, it would not appear to be a desirable endeavor for those who rely on viability, circular foundations, relativist philosophy, and relationalist approaches. Nevertheless, clarifications of power relations and the interplay between constructivist analyses of politics and the politics of constructivism might contribute to overcoming the diffuse popularity of constructivist thought towards a better understanding of constructivist contributions to solution oriented, meaningful ways of dealing with urgent problems

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Theo Hug
University of Innsbruck

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