A question in the reading

I know I could wait for tomorrow, but I’m reading the Humphrey post, and they mention “constructivist” or “inquiry centered projects.”  Is there a specific definition of constructivism that we should be looking for here and how does that relate to Structuralism that we talked about already?


  1. jeffreybardzell

    “Constructivism” is a term that refers (I believe: someone can correct me) to the pedagogical theories of Lev Vygotsky, who argued that we learn socially, not individually, and by constructing our own knowledge out of experience, rather than by mastering knowledge that is transmitted to us. All that theorizing aside (and Vygotsky is a big player in Activity Theory, btw), the basic distinction is between:

    (a) A model of instruction that is teacher-centered, in which the expert broadcasts information that the student internalizes

    (b) A student-centered model, in which the student directs her or his own learning, and the teacher facilitates and guides, but does not control, that learning.

    In the context of the Exploratorium, the debate was whether exhibits should have an optimally structured sequence that people follow to learn the most, or open-ended exhibits in which people did whatever they wanted and learned whatever they learned. The latter was the more constructivist model, and that’s what they went with. (BTW: I’m oversimplifying a touch here, but I’m trying harder to be clear than accurate. LOL)

    Constructivism is not directly connected with structuralism, but it’s not a coincidence that both theories were elaborated around the same time, albeit in different places and independent of one another.

  2. jeffreybardzell

    Don’t tell Kalpana I said this, but you could always look up “constructivism” in Wikipedia. 😉

  3. houssian

    🙂 You know I actually did that, but honestly it wasn’t terribly clear, so I thought I would ask for a little guidance. In any case thanks!

  4. wodom

    Some of Bourdieu’s work might tie in here. As an undergrad, I had a class that delved into his book “The Field of Cultural Production,” which touches on aspects of constructivism and structuralism. This work is generally about the processes and conflicts surround critique of cultural products and importance of critically examining the character of cultural life.

    ….just a thought pervading from the shadowy corners of cyberspace

  5. jeffreybardzell

    Cyberspace is, in fact, a rounded rectangle.

    I have been reading lots of Bourdieu of late, including the major essays in Field of Cultural Production, and I guess his structuralist inclinations are visible enough. Bourdieu himself distinguishes himself from structuralists, however, on the basis that they focus on textual artifacts, whereas he looks at how people position themselves within their fields, in relationships to all the positions they could have taken and the positions others have taken.

    At any rate, if people want additional readings, I’m happy to provide them. But I’m not sure Bourdieu would be near the top of that list (which is not to say that I don’t like him; indeed, his notion of “habitus” is practically identical to Stolterman’s notion of “sensibility,” as far as I can tell, and I like that).


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