kitchen table math, the sequel: "Instructionism" defined

Saturday, January 11, 2014

"Instructionism" defined

Instructionism refers to all of the educational theories based on the idea of the teacher teaching, usually according to a predetermined schedule, rather than on students learning from their own experiences at their own pace. This includes any form of rote learning, and most forms of book learning in actual use, as well as drill and practice.

Instructionism | One Laptop Per Child
Compare and contrast:
The scientific laboratory is a place for exploration and discovery, where the principal topic of investigation is human ignorance in whatever form it currently takes, using the sharpest tools and brightest lights that human ingenuity can bring to bear. The school laboratory is almost always a place for regimented repetition of "experiments" whose outcome is known in advance. Similarly, a research library is a different sort of place to explore human ignorance about other kinds of questions. Here we look for interpretations of what has previously been recorded, often by comparing differing source accounts, often by finding questions that we can attempt to answer by other means. The school library is more often a place for looking up the "right" answer. A textbook can be an account of the frontiers of knowledge and understanding, presenting conflicting theories and attempts to find evidence to distinguish among them, or it can be a compendium of socially approved "facts".

Instructionism | One Laptop Per Child


Auntie Ann said...

Right....walk into a scientific library with no background in in physics or advanced calculus or trigonometry, and try to research quantum mechanics.

Walk into the cockpit of an airplane already in the air and take the controls without any training.

You'd get the same result either way: crash and burn.

SteveH said...


"Epistemologists from John Dewey to Paulo Freire to Seymour Papert agree that you learn through doing. This suggests that if you want more learning, you want more doing. Thus OLPC puts an emphasis on software tools for exploring and expressing, rather than instruction. Love is a better master than duty. Using the laptop as the agency for engaging children in constructing knowledge based upon their personal interests and providing them tools for sharing and critiquing these constructions will lead them to become learners and teachers."

Nothing gets in the way of a good idea; not even reality. If reality doesn't fit, redefine it or ignore it.

So, tucked away in within a nice idea of getting computer power to everyone is a pedagogical and social agenda. Negroponte, on leave from MIT, should think about what it takes to prepare kids for admission to MIT. They might like independent thinkers, but self-driven passion will work only for extraordinarily few people.

SteveH said...

All schools have teachers who still teach. Nobody does pure constructivism, and most direct instruction teachers try to lead students down discovery paths. Student projects have been a staple in schools forever.

Is this just a matter of degree? Most constructivists I've seen at least start out with an introduction to the material. Do they just turn the job over to the students sooner? My son's AP Calculus teacher always left time in class for the students to start working on their homework - in groups, if they want.

Do constructivists think that work on problem sets is not a form of discovery? Actually, what they really want is not discovery, but group project work in class with the teacher as the guide on the side. Their definition of discovery always wiggles itself around to being only defined as what happens in class. They care about the process, but not so much whether it really gets the job done. No wonder they don't like those pesky tests. It's all nature and not nurture to them. It's the student's responsibility (fault). That's the linchpin to their full inclusion and "all kids will learn when they are ready" philosophy. IQ sink or swim.

This even affects kids at the top end. I call it the "passion trap". I've seen it in action. If kids are not successful, it's their fault. If they had enough passion, they would find a way to be successful. This also means that if they are not successful, then it's because they didn't care enough or work hard enough.