Constructionism versus Instructionism [...]

From Seymour Papert's The Children's Machine:

The word instructionism is intended to mean something rather different from pedagogy, or the art of teaching. It is to be read on a more ideological or programmatic level as expressing the belief that the route to better learning must be the improvement of instruction -- if School is less than perfect, why then, you know what to do: Teach better. Constructionism is one of a family of educational philosophies that denies this "obvious truth." It does not call in question the value of instruction as such. That would be silly: Even the statement (endorsed if not originated by Piaget) that every act of teaching deprives the child of an opportunity for discovery is not a categorical imperative against teaching, but a paradoxically expressed reminder to keep it in check. The constructionist attitude to teaching is not at all dismissive because it is minimalist -- the goal is to teach in such a way as to produce the most learning for the least teaching. Of course, this cannot be achieved simply by reducing the quantity of teaching while leaving everything else unchanged. The principal other necessary change parallels an African proverb: If a man is hungry you can give him a fish, but it is better to give him a line and teach him to catch fish himself.


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Audrey Watters

Writer. Troublemaker.