Constructivism Resource

  • Participant
    Hillary Johnson
    August 21, 2016 at 7:41 pm #2922

    Hi, ITC Community.

    I am in K-12 education and often use examples from children’s literature. Because it brings some levity to the work, perhaps some of you in other fields will find this appealing as well.

    In preparing my section on Big Assumptions at our Facilitators Training in July, I found myself thinking about some prior reading and writing that I had done on constructivism–and an example from the children’s book “Fish is Fish.” Here I share (1) a video version of the picture book, (2) a few talking points and (3) my prior writing to explain how it connects to constructivism (and constructing one’s own reality). I hope that it is helpful — and HOPE that others will also share resources that they find useful to illustrate key points in the mapmaking processes.

    1. Fish is Fish video link:

    2. Talking Points/Discussion Questions:
    –Sometimes it can be easier to see a complex idea in something that is lighthearted and simple
    –“What assumptions does the fish hold that limits his perception of reality?”
    –“How is his world contracted?”
    –“What is the danger in how his view of reality is limited?”

    3. Prior Writing: “Constructivism, a psychological theory, was initially based on the research of Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky and continues to develop in the work of Jerome Bruner, Howard Gardner, and others. The constructivist approach to learning is further validated by the findings of How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (1999), an authoritative synthesis of research on learning that was jointly commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation.

    At its most basic, the constructivist theory of learning means that new knowledge must be constructed from existing knowledge. New knowledge is incorporated into one’s existing framework unless that framework is challenged. The children’s book Fish Is Fish by Leo Lionni provides a vivid and straightforward illustration of this core idea.

    ‘Fish Is Fish (Lionni, 1970) described a fish who is keenly interested in learning about what happens on land because it can only breathe in water. It befriends a tadpole who grows into a frog and eventually goes out onto the land. The frog returns to the pond a few weeks later and reports on what he had seen. The frog describes all kinds of things like birds, cows, and people. The books shows pictures of the fish’s representation of each of these descriptions: each is a fish-like form that is slightly adapted to accommodate the frog’s descriptions – people are imagined to be fish that walk on their tailfins, birds are fish with wings, cows are fish with udders. The tale illustrates both the creative opportunities and dangers inherent in the fact that people construct new knowledge based on their current knowledge. (Bransford et a, 1999, p.11)’

    While the story of Fish is Fish appears simple and childlike, the core tenets apply to learning at all levels and ages. Brooks and Brooks emphasize in The Case for Constructivist Classrooms (1999) that ‘…[w]e construct our own understandings of the world in which we live’ (p. 4). Those constructions can be misconceptions, incorrect, or incomplete, unless something challenges that construction, forcing the learner to reexamine their understanding. At ____, our instructional framework will ‘allow learners to explore and generate many possibilities, both affirming and contradictory’ (Fosnot 2005, p. 34).”