Volume 9 · Number 3 · Pages 297–301
“What Is the Teacher Trying to Teach Students if They Are All Busy Constructing Their Own Private Worlds?”: Introduction to the Special Issue

Alexander Riegler & Leslie P. Steffe

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Context: Ernst von Glasersfeld introduced radical constructivism in 1974 as a new interpretation of Jean Piaget’s constructivism to give new meanings to the notions of knowledge, communication, and reality. He also claimed that RC would affect traditional theories of education. Problem: After 40 years it has become necessary to review and evaluate von Glasersfeld’s claim. Also, has RC been successful in taking the “social turn” in educational research, or is it unable to go beyond “private worlds? Method: We provide an overview of contributed articles that were written with the aim of showing whether RC has an impact on educational research, and we discuss three core issues: Can RC account for inter-individual aspects? Is RC a theory of learning? And should Piaget be regarded as a radical constructivist? Results: We argue that the contributed papers demonstrate the efficiency of the application of RC to educational research and practice. Our argumentation also shows that in RC it would be misleading to claim a dichotomy between cognition and social interaction (rather, social constructivism is a radical constructivism), that RC does not contain a theory of mathematics learning any more or less than it contains a theory of mathematics teaching, and that Piaget should not be considered a mere trivial constructivist. Implications: Still one of the most challenging influences on educational research and practice, RC is ready to embark on many further questions, including its relationship with other constructivist paradigms, and to make progress in the social dimension.

Key words: Educational research, social aspects of learning, theory of learning, theory of teaching, Ernst von Glasersfeld, Jean Piaget


Riegler A. & Steffe L. P. (2014) “what is the teacher trying to teach students if they are all busy constructing their own private worlds?”: Introduction to the special issue. Constructivist Foundations 9(3): 297–301. http://constructivist.info/9/3/297

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