Towards a Transforming Constructivism: Understanding Learners' Meanings and the Messages of Learning Environments

  • Bonnie L. Shapiro


This article is based on the ideas and material presented at the invitation to deliver the 17 u, Annual University of Calgary Faculty of Education Annual Distinguished Lecture. This lecture honors the work of a member of Faculty whose research contributions have been judged to contribute significant new insight in the field of Education. The article presents the foundations of research and thinking that have inspired work to deepen knowledge about the value and use of constructivist approaches in research, teaching, and learning. The article deepens the discussion by presenting additional ideas designed to produce a transforming constructivism. A transforming constructivism goes beyond taking into account learner conceptions or ideas in the teaching/learning dialogue. It incorporates thinking about the cultural and social messages presented within the environments of learning that also must be taken into account to build a more complete story of the ways that the learner constructs meaning. illustrative dialogue on children learning about the topic light is presented from my book, What Children Bring to Light: A Constructivist Perspective on Children's Learning in Science, (1994). The article presents findings and further work that has extended and deepened understanding by featuring the messages of science learning environments in the account of learner construction of ideas.