Spiro, R. J., & DeSchryver, M. (2009). Constructivism: When it’s the wrong idea and when it’s the only idea. In S. Tobias & T. Duffy (Eds.), Constructivist theory applied to instruction: Success or failure. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Spiro and DeSchryver note the differences between well-structures domains (WSDs) and ill-structured domains (ISDs), and explain the lack-of structure in ISDs as the core of why direct instructional guidance will not work in such an environment. Passionate in the debate, the authors’ opposition to studies invalidating constructivism is obvious initially and throughout the piece. They take care to explain the irrelevance of science and math-based studies to the ISD environments, and support the need for further studies applying constructivism in ISDs.

Several new concepts are introduced, such as Cognitive Flexible Theory and the use of web-based learning as an instructional tool for ISDs. Many times, the authors implied the significance of a topic only to mention space does not permit further explanation. While frustrating to see a potential new tool only to be told I need to research it elsewhere, this is the kind of piece that, filled with reference points, a researcher can use as a table of contents for a deeper tool cabinet.

I attribute the somewhat inconsistent writing style to author enthusiasm and find it acceptable, as it mostly enhances the content. It is apparent I need to continue to read Spiro and DeSchryver as their research path is parallel, or at least convergent, to my own. Even though they may not feed me a satiating meal with an individual piece, it appears they will lay a path of breadcrumbs as a directional aid to find additional substance.

 

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