When Constructivism Becomes GroupThink

With 3 weeks left in a 13 week summer term, I don't have time to fully ponder the title of this post. However, JT on her Online Learning Blog got my neurons scrambling a week or so ago and I think this is an issue that needs much more of my attention.

When I first read about Constructivism, I had an "aha" moment. I could really grab on to some of the underlying themes, in particular the premise that learning is an active process in which the learner is the worker bee constructing meaning based what he / she "knows" and what is out there for discovery in the learning environment. I even appreciated the "social negotiation" aspects. However, this is also where I see very bad things happen between theory and practice and, in the worst case, the learning environment becomes one long run-on social negotiation (also known as "group project" work). Which leads me to the back to the title of this post ...

I'll set aside the typical rants about group projects and ask a few straightforward questions:

  • If a learner should be made to feel responsible and held
    accountable for his / her learning outcome, why must that learner
    synthesize (water down?) his / her t
    houghts and ideas with the thoughts and ideas of others during the learning process?

  • What does consensus among students have to do with the learning of one? This implies the group's knowledge construction is better than the individual's simply because the group negotiated its way to consensus (skirting dangerously close to the definition of GroupThink).

  • Is it appropriate to force a student to negotiate his or her way into consensus with fellow students? That is the necessary outcome every time an individual's grade is based on the outcome of a group's paper or project.

These are things I will consider more fully on another day . . .

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