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Though rooted in Piagetian research, constructivism1 is an avenue of research pertaining to teaching and learning that departed from the neo-Piagetian2 mainstream twenty years ago and has continued on a distinct path of development. The departure was evident by the late seventies, clearly marked by two publications, Novak (1977) and Driver & Easley (1978). For constructivists, learning is not knowledge written on, or transplanted to, a person's mind as if the mind were a blank slate waiting to be written on or an empty gallery waiting to be filled. Constructivists use the metaphor of construction because it aptly summarizes the epistemological view that knowledge is built by individuals. Since Ausubel, Novak, & Henesian (1978), theorists have argued that the construction of new knowledge in science is strongly influenced by prior knowledge, that is, conceptions gained prior to the point of new learning. Learning by construction thus implies a change in prior knowledge, where change can mean replacement, addition, or modification of extant knowledge. Learning by construction involving change is the basis of the Posner, Hewson, & Gertzog (1982) conceptual change model. In essence, constructivism is an epistemological model of learning, and constructivist teaching is mediation. A constructivist teacher works at the interface between curriculum and student to bring the two together in a way that is meaningful for the learner.


SLCSP Paper # 115

Published Citation

Cobern, William W. "Contextual Constructivism: The Impact of Culture on the Learning and Teaching of Science." (1991).