June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.640.1 - 11.640.12
Features of a constructivist microclimate situated in a behaviorist learning environment at a university-based engineering research consortium
A pressing need to reinvigorate the mission of the university to provide effective learning experiences for the students while maintaining the scholarly vitality of the faculty is felt inside and outside the academia. This is readily evidenced by the various calls for reforms that have become the guiding principles for action among the leadership of national educational and research advocacy agencies1-5. Besides various other factors, this near uniform consensus has been due to various studies that have shown the limited effectiveness of the teaching processes in today’s classrooms that are said to be implicitly objectivist or positivist in their epistemic basis6. In the process, the cognitive model for acquisition of knowledge held by educational psychologists has gradually evolved from a behaviorist towards a constructivist viewpoint8. Such a learning process, built upon constructivist epistemic assumptions, attributes a critical and enabling role to the situated variables in realizing cognition9. Learning is said to take place when it is situated in communities of practice, where the learners extend their proximal zone of skills through their interactions with experts10. Arguably, such a viewpoint places an enormous burden in developing and implementing reforms within the existing institutions of education. If one takes a literal view of authentic experiences leading to education, even the role of a school becomes unclear11. However, on examination of successful learning models that exist within the institutions of higher education, one finds examples of thriving communities of practice, exhibiting all the features of constructivist models, particularly in the context of graduate education.
The objective of this paper is to present the prototype features of a situated cognition space as prescribed by the learning environment theorists in a thriving learning community emergent in an engineering research consortium within a university. In this case, the emergence of the learning community has been spontaneous and the evolution of the learning environment has been natural, in that they are the result of action through conventional wisdom and not shaped by a formal application of instructional design theory. The ‘microclimate’ has thus evolved to provide a community of practice for students, while retaining the strong conventional behaviorist models normally ambient in the classrooms at large universities. In describing the features of the prototype, the goal for the paper is to make the case that constructivist learning climate can be fostered within more conventional behavioral learning environments, leading to highly effective and rewarding educational communities.
A brief overview of dominant paradigms of learning theory is presented in Section II. In Sections III and IV the primary prescriptions for instructional design based on the corresponding learning models are presented. The learning environmental features of the case example, namely the Wisconsin Electric Machines and Power Electronics Consortium are described in Section V, along with informal survey results. The concluding section discusses the implications of the paper as well as the model’s extension towards an undergraduate educational program.
Venkataramanan, G., & Muetze, A. (2006, June), Features Of A Constructivist Microclimate Situated In A Behaviorist Learning Environment At A University Based Engineering Research Consortium Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. https://peer.asee.org/764
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