The following article has the aim to deal more practically with what constructivism criticizes. In this context, terms such as objectivistic and objectivism are often heard.
thing that the philosophies of objectivism and constructivism have in common is
the conviction that there is a reality apart from the individual. Yet, they
offer incompatible answers to the question of epistemology on the human
capacity for understanding.
While from a constructivist point of view, a human being constructs his own reality, objectivists say that human experiences play only a minor role in structuring the world, as “meaning is something that exists in the world quite aside from experience” (Duffe/Jonassen 2). Consequently, knowledge is considered as existing externally and independent from the learner. That means, it corresponds to the accurate representation of objectivistic reality (Bernstein 9). Thus, we can conclude that the aim of learning is to acquire knowledge of objects, their characteristics and interactions.
for example, the symbol-theoretical copy theory, naive realism and the Philosophy of Common Sense. They are all based on the existence of an objective reality that is to be
perceived - and not, as constructivists claim, created.
The Russian-American writer and philosopher Ayn Rand holds the same conviction. She seems to be the only one to call herself an objectivist. She was the founder of the Philosophy of Objectivism, which is based on fundamental statements on metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and politics. The following of her statements are useful for our purposes:
epistemological or philosophical point of view, constructivism can be seen as a
counterpart to objectivism. However, when didactics is concerned,
constructivism does not only dissociate itself from the methods of knowledge
transfer consciously referring to objectivism, but also from the traditional
teaching method. Although frequently used as a negative example by
constructivists, the traditional method cannot simply be attributed to
conscious objectivistic approaches. Teaching methods may have been developed on
a basis of a constructivist epistemology and employed with conviction.
Nevertheless, the traditional teaching method is normally not chosen due to
objectivistic conviction but simply because it is the method most common.
As a conclusion, the use of the traditional teaching method does not explicitly mean that it is based on objectivist convictions. In the same way, an objectivist conviction does not necessarily lead to a traditional way of teaching.
For instance, Ayn Rand advocates the philosophy of objectivism, yet her considerations on how knowledge is transferred do not lead to the traditional teaching method. On the contrary, the long-standing head of the Ayn Rand Institute clearly dissociates himself from the traditional teaching method as well as from the progressive one and defends the position of Montessori ("Ayn Rand And Education").
The methods used in traditional classrooms leave room to conclude that they are based on objectivistic theories. As constructivists tend to illustrate and distinguish their own approaches to teaching before this background, the following paragraphs give further information on the traditional approach to teaching. However, this description is simplified and does not represent a philosophy or an approach declared by any educational institution.
In a traditional situation of teaching and learning, the teacher transmits his knowledge of the subject (or, the knowledge he considers relevant) as an expert to a less educated group of students. The teacher is the one who is primarily active, while the students acquire the knowledge offered without communicating with each other. Their learning progress is examined regularly in tests designed by the teacher. This method is based on the assumption that it is possible for the teacher to determine what his students should know. The teacher assumes that the goals he or she sets can be achieved. For this purpose, the material to be transmitted is analyzed and subdivided into units that are to be transmitted to the students one by one (cf. the Instructional Design Theory by Gagné). In this process, the material gradually becomes more difficult. At the same time, this method is designed to match the learning ability of the average learner.
Seen from a purely hypothetical viewpoint, it would consequently be possible to
classify this traditional teaching method as being derived from the philosophy
of objectivism. However, it seems that there is no literature in which an
author chooses a traditional teaching method due to an objectivistic
conviction. Therefore, one can only argue that those who prefer such a
traditional classroom structure can be assigned to objectivism because of the
means and methods he or she chooses to apply.
As indicated before, there are some approaches to teaching that are based on objectivistic convictions. Among them are Gagné's Instructional Design Theory as well as behavioristic learning systems.
Designed by Karen Hoehnke, Veronika Koch und Ulrike Lutz.
Translated by Nina Burr, Irina Haas, Andrea Kühn, Oliver Müller, Thea Roll, Sabine Ruflair and Mareike Zeller.
Last updated January 30, 2003