Volume 6 · Number 2 · Pages 157–161
Implications of Ernst von Glasersfeld’s Constructivism for Supporting the Improvement of Teaching on a Large Scale

Paul A. Cobb

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Problem: Ernst von Glasersfeld’s radical constructivism has been highly influential in the fields of mathematics and science education. However, its relevance is typically limited to analyses of classroom interactions and students’ reasoning. Methods: A project that aims to support improvements in the quality of mathematics instruction across four large urban districts is framed as a case with which to illustrate the far-reaching consequences of von Glasersfeld’s constructivism for mathematics and science educators. Results: Von Glasersfeld’s constructivism orients us to question the standard view of policy implementation as a process of travel down through a system and to conceptualize it instead as the situated reorganization of practice at multiple levels of a system. In addition, von Glasersfeld’s constructivism orients us to understand rather than merely evaluate policies by viewing the actions of the targets of policies as reasonable from their point of view. Implications: The potential contributions of von Glasersfeld’s constructivism to mathematics and science education have been significantly underestimated by restricting the focus to classroom actions and interactions. The illustrative case of research on the application of these ideas also indicates the relevance of constructivism to researchers in educational policy and educational leadership.

Key words: mathematics education, science education, policy, leadership


Cobb P. A. (2011) Implications of Ernst von Glasersfeld’s constructivism for supporting the improvement of teaching on a large scale. Constructivist Foundations 6(2): 157–161. http://constructivist.info/6/2/157

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