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Social Constructi-on/v-ism: Same-same lah but different?


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I constructed these slides (get it? Constructed?) to help me get my head around “social constructionism” vs “social constructivism” whilst writing my methodology chapter for my doctoral dissertation. The following presentation represents my understandings, and its value/accuracy/trustworthiness will, in turn, depended upon your own understandings.

Published in: Education

Social Constructi-on/v-ism: Same-same lah but different?

  1. 1. Same-same lah but different? Penelope Coutas EdD Candidate Murdoch University, Perth
  2. 2. Knowledge is ‘constructed’ by people (individually or socially) rather than simply being received from an instructor or another source.
  3. 3. What constructionism drives home unambiguously is that there is no true or valid interpretation. There are useful interpretations, to be sure, and these stand over against interpretations that appear to serve no useful purpose. There are liberating forms of interpretations too; they contrast sharply with interpretations that prove oppressive. There are even interpretations that may be judged fulfilling and rewarding--in contradistinction to interpretations that impoverish human existence and stunt human growth. ‘Useful’, ‘liberating’, ‘fulfilling’, ‘rewarding’ interpretations, yes. ‘True’ or ‘valid’ interpretations, no. (Crotty, 1998, pp. 47-48)
  4. 4. From a constructivist point of view, people actively construct new knowledge as they interact with their environments. Everything you read, see, hear, feel, and touch is tested against your prior knowledge and if it is viable within your mental world, may form new knowledge you carry with you. Knowledge is strengthened if you can use it successfully in your wider environment. You are not just a memory bank passively absorbing information, nor can knowledge be "transmitted" to you just by reading something or listening to someone.
  5. 5. More emphasis on the purposeful of knowledge, i.e. the construction of something. More emphasis on the meaning making of the mind in relation to stuff (things, experiences) in the environment.
  6. 6. Gergen (1985) recommends the use of ‘constructionism’, since ‘constructivism’ is sometimes used to refer to Piagetian theory, and to a particular kind of perceptual theory at that.
  7. 7. A major focus of social constructionism is to uncover the ways in which individuals and groups participate in the creation of their perceived social reality. It involves looking at the ways social phenomena are created, institutionalized, and made into tradition by humans. Socially constructed reality is seen as an ongoing, dynamic process; reality is reproduced by people acting on their and their knowledge of it.
  8. 8. The ‘social’ in social constructionism is about the mode of meaning generation and not about the kind of object that has meaning. (Crotty, 1998, p. 55)
  9. 9. Thomas Luckmann Peter Berger Their book (1966)
  10. 10. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel Karl Mannheim (1893-1947) Who built on Karl Marx
  11. 11. There is no one feature which could be said to identify a social constructionist position, but there are some assumptions amongst those who identify as such. Burr (2003) lists: 1.  A critical stance towards taken-for-granted knowledge 2.  Historical and cultural specificity 3.  Knowledge is sustained by social processes 4.  Knowledge and social action go together (Burr, 2003)
  12. 12. Culture is best seen as the source rather than the result of human thought and behaviour. (Crotty, 1998, p. 54) It is clearly not the case that individuals encounter phenomena in the world and make sense of them one by one. Instead, we are all born into a world of meaning. We enter a social milieu in which a ‘system of intelligibility’ prevails. We inherit a ‘system of significant symbols’. (Crotty, 1998, p. 54)
  13. 13. Social constructivism emphasizes the importance of culture and context in an individual understanding what occurs in society and, in turn, constructing knowledge based on this understanding (Derry, 1999; McMahon, 1997). This perspective is often associated with developmental theories such as those by Vygotsky and Bruner, and Bandura's social cognitive theory (Shunk, 2000). ? (Kim, 2008) Isn’t that what you just said?
  14. 14. The social context itself is at the centre of meaning making. Focus is on the artifacts/’knowing’ created The is at the through shared centre of meaning making . within a social context. Focus is on the individual’s learning that takes place because of their interactions.
  15. 15. It would appear useful, then, to reserve the term constructivism for epistemological considerations focusing exclusively on ‘the meaning-making activity of the individual mind’ and to use constructionism where the focus includes ‘the collective generation [and transmission] of meaning’. (Crotty, 1998, p. 58)
  16. 16. Psychology Sociology
  17. 17. (Doolottle, 2001)
  18. 18. Focus here …and here (Doolottle, 2001)
  19. 19. Focus here (Doolottle, 2001)
  20. 20. Constructivism … points up the unique experience of each of us. It suggests that each one’s way of making sense of the world is as valid and worthy of respect as any other, thereby tending to scotch any hint of a critical spirit. On the other hand, social constructionism emphasises the hold our culture has on us: it shapes the way in which we see things (even the way in which we feel things!) and gives us a quite definite view of the world. … On these terms, it can be said that constructivism tends to resist the critical spirit, while constructionism tends to foster it. (Crotty, 1998, p. 58)
  21. 21. It has become something of a shibboleth for qualitative researchers to claim to be constructionist or constructivist, or both. We need to ensure that this is not just a glib claim, a matter of rhetoric only. If we make such a claim, we should reflect deeply on its significance. … Being constructionist/constructivist has crucial things to say to us about many dimensions of the research task. It speaks to us about the way in which we do research. It speaks to us about how we should view its data. We will do well to listen. (Crotty, 1998, pp. 64-65)
  22. 22. •  Schwandt (2001), Crotty (1998), and many more use ‘constructivist’ as the adjective for both ‘constructivism’ and ‘constructionism’ (social or not). Certainly, ‘constructionist’ sounds wrong, but this use gets confusing, especially when the authors are describing the differences between the –on/v-ism’s! •  Some pay attention to Gergen’s (1985) advice (slide 11) and use ‘constructionism’ (e.g. Burr, 2003, p. 2). •  But others use the terms as synonyms, and make no apologies for doing so. (e.g. Lynch, 1998, p. 30).
  23. 23. •  Define your terms •  Clarify & justify your position (What is your focus? Psychological constructs or social constructs? Critical/not?) •  Be consistent •  Footnotes are (can be) your friend
  24. 24.
  25. 25. Penelope Coutas EdD Candidate Murdoch University, Perth
  26. 26. Slide 1 & 38: ‘Full spectrum team waving’. Uploaded December 25, 2007 to Flickr by lumaxart. Slide 2: ‘Thirst for knowledge’. Uploaded October 19, 2007 to Flickr by Andrew_1000. Slide 7: ‘There is no spoon’. Uploaded November 9 to Flickr by Pinheiro. Slide 11: ‘Piaget bust’. Slide 12: ‘Working together teamwork puzzle concept’. Uploaded December 25, 2007 to Flickr by lumaxart. Slide 13: ‘Wikipedia logo’. Slides 14-16: ‘I [edit] Wikipedia’. Uploaded April 29, 2008 to Flickr by quartermande. http://wå Slide 17: ‘Peter Berger’. pensamiento_pedagogico_radical/1074/o_peterberger.jpg Slide 17: ‘Thomas Luckmann’. Slide 17: ‘The social construction of reality book’. Slide 18: ‘Karl Mannheim’. Slide 18: ‘Hegel’. Slide 18: ‘Marx’. Slide 19: ‘Social constructonism: An introduction book’. Slide 28-30: ‘Social constructivism’. Slide 35: ‘Connectivism’. Uploaded October 19, 2007 to Flickr by cogdogblog. Slide 36: ‘3D full spectrum unity holding hands concept’. Uploaded December 25, 2007 to Flickr by lumaxart. Slide 37: ‘Dreamstme outtake’. Uploaded December 13, 2008 to Flickr by lumaxart.
  27. 27. Berger, P. L. (1966). The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday. Burr, V. (2003). Social constructionism: An introduction. New York: Routledge. Crotty, M. (1998). The foundations of social research: Meaning and perspective in the research process. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. Doolottle, P. (2001). The need to leverage theory in the development of guidelines for using technology in social studies teacher preparation: A reply to Crocco and Mason et al. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 1(4). Retrieved August 14, 2009 from Gergen, K. J. (1985). The social constructionist movement in modern psychology. American Psychologist, 40, 266-275. Lynch, M. (1998). Towards a constructivist genealogy of social constructivism. In I. Velody & R. Williams (Eds.), The Politics of Constructionism (pp. 13-32). London: SAGE Publications. Philosophy - MoodleDocs. (n.d.). Retrieved August 14, 2009, from Schwandt, T. A. (2001). Dictionary of qualitative inquiry (Vol. 2). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications. Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Elearnspace. Retrieved March 10, 2008, from Social constructivism. (2009). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved August 14, 2009, from