Annotated Bibliography of Resources for Educational Reform, Coherent Teaching Practice, and Improved Student Learning

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  • O'Loughlin, M. (1992). Rethinking science education: Beyond Piagetian constructivism toward a sociocultural model of teaching and learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 29, 791-820.

O'Loughlin presents a thorough critique of Piagetian constructivism. He believes that using the underlying assumptions of Piagetian constructivism limits the possibility for radical change in science education. The focus on the subjective and individualistic nature of mental constructions moves curriculum ever further from people's lives. Value is placed on more abstract cognitive skills, teaching students to intellectualize their relationship with the world rather than transform it. O'Loughlin questions the purpose of active learning, raising issues of authority, culture, and power in the classroom. He does not advocate discarding constructivism, but rather presents an argument for a sociocultural approach to teaching and learning, based on the work of Vygotsky and Bakhtin. This approach stresses the critical role of language in the relationship between culture and thought. It can accommodate the subjectivity of the person, the multivoiced and dialogical nature of meaning making, the sociocultural context of schooling, and the patterns of power associated with modes of discourse. The challenge for science teachers is to enable students to negotiate the scientific modes of discourse effectively so that they may master and critique scientific ways of knowing without sacrificing their own personally and culturally constructed ways of knowing.

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