Constructivism and Instructional Design
Constructivism is currently enjoying popularity as a "new theory" in education. In reality, the theory traces its roots through Piaget and Dewey to Kant. Constructivists align their beliefs with Kant’s writings on the interaction of the innate mind structures with the world. The individual can never know the "world-in-itself," only the world as it is constructed in the individual’s experience. Piaget traced his constructivist roots to Kant but Piaget sought to identify the structures of the mind behind the cognitive behaviors characteristic of each stage of human development. (Noddings, 1995) While Piaget wrote primarily on genetic development, Dewey stressed a student’s knowledge grew and developed from the experiences of the individual student. (Julyan, 1996) Space does not permit a detailed discussion of the various influences on the development of constructivism. Instead, the focus will be on the contrast of constructivism with the more traditional objectivist position, the central tenants of constructivist belief, and on the impact of constructivism on instructional design.
Constructivism and objectivism
The key contrast of constructivism and objectivism deals with the view of each position on reality. Objectivism believes there is one shared reality and only one way to structure the world. By contrast, constructivism says there are many perspectives or ways to structure reality since reality is the outcome of the construction process. Objectivists seek to find order while constructivists work to construct order. Objectivists believe meaning exists separately or independently from the individual while constructivists believe meaning is imposed by the individual. Objectivists say experience has no role in structuring the world while constructivists believe experience is the index of meaning. (Duffy, 1991)
Constructivism takes a different approach to developing instruction than the traditional approach taken by objectivism. Objectivist instruction communicates knowledge by breaking it into component parts and then systematically presenting the components to learners. Objectivism begins by deciding what the student needs to know and then constructing a task analysis of that knowledge. After analyzing the existing abilities of the learners, the instructional designer develops a strategy to communicate the required information to the learners. Assessments are used to determine if the communication process was successful. The process is usually conducted in an artificial setting, such as a classroom, to minimize distractions. By contrast, constructivist instruction seeks to provide learners with their own means of constructing their own interpretation of a problem. Constructivism begins by selecting a task relevant to the learner’s lived experience. The instructional strategy provides tools for inquiring into the problem and various means for collecting information about the problem...