Monday, October 04, 2004

Constructivism, Objectivism or Chaos

As we move to a more learner-centred paradigm in education we seek to design & develop learning opportunities that are consistent with a constructivist view of learning with the idea that learners will make their own sense of the material presented. While there is strong evidence to show that this approach develops a deeper level of higher order learning, much of the literature paints constructivism and objectivism (behavioralism) as being at opposite ends of a single continuum.
Cronje (2000) suggests that educators consider objectivism and constructivism not as a continuum, but as being axies placed at 90 degrees to each other. Within these axies there are then four quadrants Cronje notes as:
  • "construction" (high in constructivism, low in objectivism)
  • "instruction" (high in objectivism, low in constructivism)
  • "integration" (high in constructivism, high in objectivism)
  • "chaos" (low in constructivism, low in objectivism)
Cronje claims that "integration" is the realm of the instructional designer where objectives/learning outcomes can be demonstrably met and true constructivist learning takes place.
Ironically, Cronje claims that in learning environments that are low in objectivism and constructivism ("chaos") more learning takes place than in any of the other quadrants.

So what does this mean for educators? Should we forget about designing learning tasks and just provide a bunch of resources that our students can explore for their own edification?
While I don't believe that this is a workable approach, some of what Cronje is suggesting matches with our own experience in learning engagement. Students are more likely to become interested (engaged) in what they are learning if the performance goals (assessment) matches their own personal learning goals.

So how do we achieve this crossover? We know that in a learner-centred environment that students who are able to negotiate aspects of their assessment have higher levels of commitment and buy-in with these tasks. We also observe that assessment, which is integrated into the learning tasks, is seen as more relevant to the learning environment.

It is my view that when you integrate assessment and design learning tasks that are authentic and flexible, the likely hood of students buying in to, and becoming engaged in, their learning is high.

For those who are interested in a challenge Ron Lubensky from Click Craft is hosting an e-learning challenge Blog that provides an opportunity to share ideas on e-learning design--you can even submit your own design challenge and have the e-learning community of practice provide some ideas and feedback. This Blog is a seriously good idea and one that I can recommend as an excellent way of developing a strong e-learning community.

More tomorrow,


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