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RE: constructivism

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tortolitascom_at_TeacherArtExchange
Date: Sun May 19 2002 - 09:55:12 PDT


Hi Diane!

Good to see you writing to the list again.

Constructivism indeed holds immense potential. It is also
very difficult if not impossible to implement where
teaching is art and where each teacher brings unique
contributions, understanding, and knowledge to the table.

Truth? My late return to school for my certificate pretty
much finished off the conception of truth I encountered in
school as a child of the 50's. Post-Modernism and Critical
Theory don't you know. Today the one thing I can guarantee
is that what I know is false. If not false today then in
the future and if not then in the past. Everything I think
I know is wrong.

History has taught me this cynicism. The great ideas do not
proceed down the years unscathed. The essence of
constructivism has come and gone before and it will make
that arc again no doubt. We don't know what will eclipse it.
We have yet to discover what will resurrect it.

Part of the problem is what the artist William Blake called
"single vision" or "Newton's sleep" - the perception of a
single and rational solution to the epistemological problem
(how do we come to know what we know?) if we accept
constructivism's narrow definitions of learning and teaching
its other assumptions are pretty unassailable

But there other models and theorys of equal pedigree and
equally narrow assumptions and definitions. And it's not
a zero-sum game we are slowly learning. It's not one
grand-unified theory takes all.

Constructivism, behaviorism, cognitivism, humanism, brain-
based etc. there are so many models and theories. I don't
anticipate the fianl ascendency of one of them but rather
that they will, over timr, learn to play well together
and to seek accomodation. At the moment, each neglects
the perspectives of the others.

As an artist, I can't help but think that constructivism is
missing something in its emphasis conconscious mental
process: analysis, hypothesis, meta-cognition, formal
discourse and other elements.

The "Blueberry" post thet came in this morning has a good
point. Some of our "berries" come in well-equipped for such
intellectual play and find pleasure in it as well as
solutions. For others it will be a Procrustean stretch.
(Procrustes was an ancient inn-keeper with the "perfect" bed
- the secret of which was that he trimmed or stretched the
guest to fit the bed. A terminal experience I'm afraid.)

Theories, I believe, need to be adapted to the student. A
comfortable fit should be the goal.

Western academics drawing on traditions of Europe and West
Asia have a tremendous bias towards the intellectual life.
I do too but just because it works for me I can't
extrapolate it into a prescription for everyone. 50's
Science Fiction seem to have been enamored of a future in
which our greatly increased intellects demanded bigger
brains and skulls. This bias can still be seen in the
academic reverence for intellectual knowledge.

There have been many learning traditions on the planet
and they all have met human needs. Some have emphasized
intellectual ways of knowing, others memnonic ways and
yet others visceral and unconscious ways. All have
something to be said for them. All have their places.
Better perhaps to match the student to the theory and
to celebrate an ecological diversity and richness of
multiple epistemologies.

You make a great case for Constructivism Diane but I
can't help but to suspect that there is a lesson to
be found in the great diversity of learning theories.

I tend to think the "Ecology" is the best metaphor
for what we need in education. A classroom needs to
be a sufficiently diverse theoretical and
methodological ecology to meet the needs of the great
variety of students who inhabit it. Beyond that I hope
that we can eventually find ways of overcoming the
geographical barriers in education and to match up
students with other students and teachers to create
a community of shared perspectives and approaches to
life and learning.

Again. Constructivism is great. My personal style of
learning is Constructivist and Artsednet has great
potential as a model of a Constructivist learning
modality. I've learned a great deal through the
discourse of listserves.

For what it's worth; I also suspect that what I've
needed throughout my education has been more Behaviorism -
"operant conditioning" to be more precise... but that's
just me.

Good to see you hare again.

-henry

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