Volume 14 · Number 3 · Pages 234–243
Constructionism and De-Constructionism: Opposite yet Complementary Pedagogies

Jean M. Griffin

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Context: Constructionism, Papert’s pedagogy and learning theory, involves experiential learning where students engage in exploration, create things that are personally meaningful, and share them with others. This approach is quite motivating, evidenced by the popularity of maker spaces, hackathons, and educational technologies that promote creative computing. With constructionism, the learner’s choice is important. This means that learning is often serendipitous. It also means that people often abandon their designs when obstacles arise. This is problematic in learning environments where coverage of key concepts is necessary, practice to develop skills is essential, and persistence with troubleshooting errors is required. Problem: How can teachers and instructional designers complement a constructionist approach with one that addresses its limitations? I introduce de-constructionism, a pedagogy and learning theory that emphasizes learning from taking things apart. It is inspired by reverse engineering, cognitive load theory, practice theory, and theories of learning from errors and negative knowledge. This approach is applicable to computer science, as described here, and other disciplines. Method: I report on a design-based research experiment, where university students interacted with Python practice problems during weekly labs. The designs of the individual problems, and series of problem sets, were based on a model for


Griffin J. M. (2019) Constructionism and de-constructionism: Opposite yet complementary pedagogies. Constructivist Foundations 14(3): 234–243. https://constructivist.info/14/3/234

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