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

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  • Pope, M. L. (1982). Personal construction of formal knowledge. Interchange, 13 (4), 3-14.

In this classic paper, Pope discusses the personal construct psychology developed by Kelly as an alternative to behaviorism. Pope concentrates on the personal construction of "formal" scientific knowledgeÑthe material presented in school as representing the "official" view of scientific "facts." Kelly said that people understand themselves and their surroundings by constructing tentative models. This construction of reality was, for Kelly, a subjective, personal, active, creative, rational and emotional affair, and could be replaced by a "better" theory as a result of new experiences. In addition to the shift to this "new" idea about learning, the thinking in the field of philosophy of science shifted to a view of formal scientific knowledge as a progression of the personal constructions of individual scientists toward some consensus among a community of scientists. These ideasÑpersonal construction and the nature of knowledgeÑshould have a significant impact on education, according to Pope. She stresses the importance of teachers and students becoming aware of students' initial constructions and of teachers planning teaching strategies and learning opportunities that encourage transition to scientist's views. She recognizes that the outcome may not be a full transition to scientists' science. Pope concludes by saying that "differences between the learner's personal meanings and formal knowledge could be dealt with in open forum where both are valued for what they areÑconstructive alternative ways of seeing the world."

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