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The Poor Scholar:Questioning Constructivism. “Romancing A Generation?”. By Susan Holden, Mark Lloyd, Jennifer Nicholson, Eric McIntyre, Huguette Poirier and Julie Stewart. " The central educational fallacy of our time: that one can think without having anything to think about."

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the poor scholar questioning constructivism

The Poor Scholar:Questioning Constructivism

“Romancing A Generation?”

By Susan Holden, Mark Lloyd, Jennifer Nicholson,

Eric McIntyre, Huguette Poirier and Julie Stewart


"The central educational fallacy of our time:that one can think without having anything to think about."

- Heather Mac Donald

one cynic s testimony
One Cynic’s Testimony:

Hirsh (2001) As a society, we\'ve been chasing the chimera of progressive education through most of the 20th century, and now it\'s come home with a vengeance. Points to consider:

# 1

We have kids who can\'t read or spell very well, can\'t multiply or make change without a calculator, can\'t form logical arguments and can\'t think coherently, who don\'t know the difference between the Civil War and the American Revolution, never heard of the Reformation or the Enlightenment, and who haven\'t a clue what Charlemagne, Newton, Jefferson or Dickens did.

# 2

They can\'t sit still because no one ever told them to just sit down and listen, they can\'t think or work independently because they\'ve been depending on their collaborative workgroups since Kindergarten, and they don\'t know how to ask questions because they have little experience in dealing with definite factual answers

# 3

Later in life, they take vacations to places they can\'t find on a map.


But they do have terrific self-esteem, a sense of entitlement, and have been romanced into thinking the real world will make allowances for them.

trouble at the happiest school on earth
\'Trouble at the Happiest School on Earth.\'

"According to the New York Times, the Disney school was to follow the \'most advanced\' progressive educational methods. ... Such methods, although they have been in use for decades, have rarely worked well. The Celebration School was no exception. The Times article began, \'The start of the school year here is just a few days away, so it was no surprise that there was a line of parents at the Celebration School office the other day. But the reason for the line was: they were queuing up to withdraw their children.\' Parents said they were dissatisfied with the lack of clear academic goals and measures of achievement, as well as with the lack of order and structure that accompanied the progressive methods.“ (Hirsch 2001)

further research to refute constructivism
Further Research to refute constructivism

One researcher believes memorization has become archaic and has more or less been fully replaced by a more constructivist approach. Michael Knox-Baren (2004) stated “...if there’s one thing progressive educators don’t like it’s rote learning. As a result, we now have several generations of Americans who’ve never memorized much of anything. Even highly educated people in their thirties and forties are often unable to recite half a dozen lines of classic poetry or prose.”


Blog post from Michael Kaechele from Michigan,US, a teacher in a problem based learning school “Is rote memorization a 21st Century skill? One of the things that has amazed me in my 5 years of teaching a Grade 6 math-focused technology class is how many kids do not know the answer to simple math problems like 3 x 7. They want to use a calculator for basic math facts.”

not totally against it but raises a good point
Not totally against it but raises a good point:

Kirshner, Sweller, Clark (2006) The advantage of guidance begins to recede only when learners have sufficiently high prior knowledge to provide “internal” guidance.

Basically, the research indicates that 21st century classrooms may need a marriage of both inquiry and memorization/coverage and that “The Scholar’s Soliloquy”-with its irony and humour- is indeed still relevant for our professional reflection.

what do we know about constructivism
What do we know about constructivism?

Phye (1997) states that constructivism is a movement that combines cognition from a developmental perspective with other important issues, such as motivation, self-directed learning, and a focus on the social context of learning.

what do we know about the student
What do we know about the student?
  • Little confidence in his ability to do school work
  • Not motivated in school
  • Repeated grade 7
  • Interested in mechanics
  • Able to read a map
  • Able to write bills and letters
  • Practical
  • Wants to be a good citizen
Suggestions :
  • Allowing independence and opportunities to take initiative
  • Providing hand-on activities
  • Link learning to real life possibilities
  • Building on students’ prior-knowledge
  • Encouraging discussion with teacher and other students
  • Asking open-ended questions
  • Allowing response time
  • Encouraging inquiry-base learning
  • Flexibility in lesson
  • Using precise words such as create, predict, classify and analyse
  • Encouraging exploration and questioning of hypotheses

"Romancing The Child" by E. D. Hirsch Jr., Education Matters, Spring 2001.

Fad, Fraud, and Folly in Education by Martin A. Kozloff, University of North Carolina, Wilmington, November 2002.