Doolittle, P.E. (1999). Constructivism and online education. Virginia Polytechic Institute & State University. 

This article is a very informative source on constructive learning theory and its application to online education.  Doolittle begins by outlining what constructivism is.  He acknowledges that the underlying idea is that learners actively construct their own knowledge and meaning from experiences.  He then gives four basic principles of the teaching, learning, and knowing process.  They are that learning: 1. involves active cognitive processing, 2. is adaptive, 3. is subjective, 4. involves both social/cultural & individual processes.             

            Doolittle goes on to discuss the broad categories of constructivism: Cognitive, Radical, and Social.  I’ve mentioned some aspects of each below:

Cognitive Constructivism:

-                           associated with information processing and processes of cognition, namely, focusing on the procedures of learning, how learning is represented, and how the representations are organized.

-                           in line with first two main principles of constructivism

-                           does not include the subjective nature of knowledge

Radical constructivism:

-                           in line with first three main principles of constructivism (current movement to accept fourth)

-                           concerned with construction of mental structures and the construction of personal meaning

Social constructivism:

-                           in line with all four main principles

-                           defining principles are those that maintain the social nature of knowledge, and that knowledge results from social interaction and use of language, and is a shared experience

-                           socio-cultural context of interaction

-                           knowledge is bound to a specific time and place

-                           downplay mental construction of knowledge 

Main differences:

·        Cognitive constructivists emphasize accurate mental constructions of reality

·        Radical constructivists emphasize construction of a coherent experiential reality

·        Social constructivists emphasize the construction of an agreed-upon, socially constructed reality 

In the rest of the article, I like how Doolittle explains the eight factors that are essential in all three types of constructivism and follows up by applying them in an online educational setting.  He even scores each factor using a letter scale to show how well each factor is achieved in this setting.  When he discusses item #5: Students should be assessed formatively, serving to inform future learning experiences, I wondered how it could be improved upon.  I thought that if students could show what they do each day, the teacher could assess it.  For example, whatever students are doing in their online setting, they could be responsible for recording what they did as a daily journal entry or blog, or over a longer period of time by creating a product to highlight their learning, such as working on a newsletter, slideshow, or report.  Couldn’t teachers monitor student progress in this way more often than the article mentions by way of “self-check” quizzes? 

Back Home Next