Constructivism versus Objectivism

Mason: "which role designers determine for the learners during their learning activities depends on the position they hold with respect to the opposing views of objectivism and contructivism (which correlates with the kind of educational theory adhered to). The differences between objectivists and contructivists have aroused interest for their position with respect to instructional design, probably as a rounding off of the shift away from behaviourism that has dominated thinking about instructional design during the last three decades. Where cognitive scientists have long been approaching reality in ways that respected an objectivistic philosophy which was not unlike the view of behaviourists, constructivists are now emphasising the individuality of information processing where each individual determines his or her own conception of the world. This appears to feed a debate in the literature about the influence of the different approaches to instructional design. Insightful contributions can be found in the May and September issues of educational technology of 1991, which were almost completely dedicated to this subject. The issue is however much older: "Seeing the student as active agent in learning is becoming relatively widespread at present, stemming from Piaget’s genetic epistemology, Kelly’s contructivism, and Dewey’s pragmatism, but the roots go back much further through the teaching styles of religious mystics in a wide variety of cultures. Plato even claims in the Thaetetus that Socrates saw himself not as a teacher but as a midwife for ideas, in other words, as mediator and facilitator" (Mason, 1988, p. 207)

Jonassen: Objectivists believe that the mind mirrors reality while constructivists maintain that the way in which the world is perceived is a product of the mind (Jonassen, 1991). Objectivists conceive thought to be governed by external reality:

Fosnot: "From this perspective…. A view of the learner as passive still remains. While the processing is seen as active, an empirical reality is assumed, which the learner selectively processes and discovers (i.e. the mental process is simply modelled and assumed to be copied") (Fosnot, 1984, p. 196).

Jonassen: On the other hand, according to constructivists, the assimilation of new knowledge into an existing cognitive structure is an idiosyncratic enterprise of perceiving, interpreting and building of meaning in the context of what an individual already knows. The basic tenets of constructivism concern the learner as active and self-regulated (Fosnot, 1984, p. 203) and indeed: "the meaning that is generated by each learner for material they see is individual and cannot be controlled by the author [of that material]" (Jonassen, 1988, p. 153).

Schramm: In practice, an intermediate position may very well be adopted and appears to be more the rule than the exception. Most instructional theories and models pay attention to the existing cognitive structure of the learner as an important factor that is under control of the learner, at the same time treating subject matter as real-world information that exists of its won. Instruction has thus to be adapt to the learner, but also the learner has to adapt to the instruction: instructional designers and communication specialists have to reckon with the idiosyncrasies of their audience, but at the same time may require and audience to be accessible to their messages. The basis for this may be formed by sharing enough fields of experience to understand each other (see also Schramm, 1954).

Vygotsky: Where a risk exists that learners may derive meaning other than intended from information, new information should be embedded in a context that shapes the possibilities for interpretation into the desired direction. The new information has to be within the range of abilities that the learners can deploy. Learners have to recognise assignments as challenges that are not too difficult and worthwhile to accept. Assignments should be in their "zone of proximal development" (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86)

Verhagen: Under these conditions, educators may require learners to exert themselves to grasp currently presented subject matter" (Verhagen, 1992, p. 37-38).


a.) Constructivism Technology and The Future of Classroom Learning b.) Web Literature on Constructivism by Jenk Akyalcin Constructivism- An Epistemological Journey from Piaget to Papert c.) Social Constructivism - Works of Russian Psychologist, Vygotsky d.) Reflections on Constructivism and Instructional Designs e.) Perspectives on Instructions [The above discussed about, How the knowledge process & How do learners' learn] f.) Radical Constructivism g.) Papers on Radical Constructivism h.) A Library of literature regarding Constructivism and Related sites i.) Cognitive Constructivism - Works of Jean Piaget

Bloom, B.S. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: the classification of educational goals by a committee of college and university examiners. New York: McKay; New York; London: Longman;

Fosnot, C.T. (1984). Media and technology in education: A constructivist view. Educational Communications and Technology Journal, 32, 195-205;

Jonassen, D.H. (1988). Integrating learning strategies into courseware to facilitate learning. In D.H. Jonassen (Ed.), Instructional designs for microcomputer courseware (pp. 151-182). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Jonassen, D.H. (1991). Objectivism versus Constructivism: Do we need a new philosophical paradigm? Educational Technology, Research & Development, 39 (3), 5-14;

Mason, J.H. (1988). Fragments: The implications for teachers, learners, and media users/researchers of personal construal and fragmentary recollection of aural and visual messages. Instructional Science, 17, 195-218;

Schramm, W. (1954). Procedures and effects of mass communication. In N.B. Henry 9Ed.), Mass media in education. The Fifty-Third Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, Part II. Chicago, University of Chicago Press;

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in society. The development of higher psychological processes. (Edited by M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner, & E. Souberman) London: Harvard University Press.