What's your view,
On the nature of Knowledge and Understanding?*

Significant shifts have occurred in instructional design and technology reflecting alternatives to the traditional foundations and assumptions associated with the field. Here, we introduce and compare objectivism and constructivism perspectives and examine design frame's linked with each. Inasmuch as a objectivists believe that knowledge existing independent of the individual learner it follows that they generally employee instructional methods designed to "transmit"; knowledge so as to help individuals "learn" or duplicate it. Conversely, inasmuch as constructivist believe that knowledge is not absolute but rather what the individual constructs, they typically rely on instructional methods that are intended to promote the judgments and evaluations that promote the judgment and evaluations that facilitate personal interpretations and refined understanding.

It is apparent, therefore, that these different frameworks, have different implications for instructional design. The extent to which these beliefs shape our design practices distinguishes one designer from another. By design, construction materials and methods should reflect beliefs and evidence about the nature of learning and understanding in ways that are consistent with these key foundations and assumption.

Objectivism has been the cornerstone of the ID field, laying the foundation for many current instructional design practices. Though significant differences exist between behavioral and cognitive perspectives on learning, both reflect objectivist philosophies. Behaviorists believe that learning is mediated by relationships among external stimuli, overt responses, and reinforcement principles. Cognitive psychology, while emphasizing the thinking processes associated with learning, focuses on the relationship between an external and internal activities. Traditional instructional practices have tended to reflect these objectivist perspectives, characterized by beliefs that reality exists external to the individual. Learning involves the acquisition of these external "truths"; instruction is the principal means to "transmit" or "deliver"; them in a consistent manner across learners. back


Constructivism seems inconsistent with these traditions. They believe that reality is not directly knowable and can only be inferred or assigned by conventions or consensus. They assume that individuals actively assign different meanings to common objects, events, and circumstances that cannot be judged simply as "correct" or "incorrect"; knowledge therefore is uniquely constructed rather than uniformly transmitted. Learning involves the individuals negotiating meeting in an effort to evolve personal understand; design involves the creation of materials and activities that assist learners in constructing and refining individual representations and personal understand. back

* Epistemology and the Design of Learning Environments by Michael J.Hannafin and Janette R. Hill, University of Georgia. from Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology, 2002 Merrill Prentice Hall