Pragmatic constructivism in Higher Education

Procter, CT 2019, Pragmatic constructivism in Higher Education , PhD on publication thesis, University of Salford.

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This critical review of the author’s educational research focuses on two long running points of difference in higher education. The first is whether to use an approach of instruction or construction. Should students be regarded as ‘empty vessels to be filled’ or ‘fires to be lit’ (e.g. Freire, 2018, Plutarch, 1927)? Will they learn more by rote or by creating a solution to a problem using their previous experience? Is learning a sequential process or an iterative journey? The published works and the critical review clearly locate the author on the constructivist side of this debate. Constructivism in education is related to interpretivist epistemology and agile methodology in practice. However, in certain circumstances, e.g. learning specific functionality of a software package, instruction may be simpler and more appropriate. Furthermore, effective construction requires structure, and agility requires a plan. So, adopting Perkins’ (1999) terminology, the author distinguishes himself from ‘Ideological Constructivism’ and instead advocates ‘Pragmatic Constructivism’. This is defined by the author within this review as an instructional framework to guide the constructivist development of learning. The second, long running point of difference is between research and teaching. This is an issue in academic departments the world over. The author came from a teaching background but discovered how research could inform and strengthen teaching and vice versa. Vygotsky famously compared how water is made from the combination of hydrogen and oxygen to how human consciousness is formed from the combination of thought and speech. Speech (and other communication) involves social interaction, and consciousness cannot exist without this combination. Similarly, learning comes from the combination of research and practice. In the case of my work, practice and change came first, research second and publication third, in a cycle. The practice on the part of the student requires social interaction, including the assistance of skilled peer or teacher. Thus, pragmatic constructivism is meaningless as a concept on its own. The contribution of the constructivist must be judged on the way in which they combine theory with practice, research with teaching and teaching with learning. It should be judged on how they reflect upon this combination, and thus further develop their learning. The constructivist cannot be judged solely on their citations nor on their student output alone. It is the combination or blend that matters, and that is the contribution of this work. On a theoretical level, the work develops pragmatic constructivism as an approach to pedagogy. In an original way, the review demonstrates the synergy between constructivist pedagogy, an interpretive philosophy and an agile approach. This is illustrated through a sequence of simple yet similar iterative models. An iterative approach has significant consequences for the methods used in the design and practice of teaching and learning. Thus, a contribution is also demonstrated in the practical development of pragmatic constructivism. This is explained through the themes of the published work; the use of technology in teaching and learning, the development of partnerships and work-based learning, and the significance of guiding students to thresholds in their learning. These contributions are summarised in the conclusions of this review.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD on publication)
Schools: Schools > Salford Business School
Depositing User: Chris Procter
Date Deposited: 09 Oct 2019 12:53
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 21:27

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