Publication Date

2015

Abstract

Constructivism and constructionism are two distinct epistemologies. Yet, within religious education many have tended to use these terms interchangeably or as being complementary to one another. This article provides conceptual clarity in relation to both epistemologies by comparing each in terms of their origins and epistemological premises, their ontologies, and their respective purposes. It concludes by articulating some implications concerning the use of each to contribute to research in the field of religious education. There has been some confusion in the field of religious education concerning the notions of constructivism and constructionism. This is problematic. These are two quite different epistemologies, and yet many writers use them (and their derivatives social constructivism and social constructionism) either interchangeably or in complementary ways (e.g., Mountain 2004 Mountain, V. 2004. Investigating the meaning and function of prayer for children in selected primary schools in Melbourne Australia. Unpublished PhD thesis, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Australia. [Google Scholar] ; Moriarty 2010 Moriarty, M. 2010. An investigation of the spirituality of children in Victorian state primary schools. Unpublished PhD thesis, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Australia. [Google Scholar] ; Dowling 2012 Dowling, L. 2012. Effective professional learning for religious educators: Some preliminary findings. Journal of Religious Education 60 (3): 54–66. [Google Scholar] ; Buchanan 2007 Buchanan, M.T. 2007. Management of curriculum change: an analysis of religious education coordinators’ perspectives on the management of a particular curriculum change in Catholic secondary schools in the Archdiocese of Melbourne. Unpublished PhD thesis, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Australia. [Google Scholar] ; Healy 2011 Healy, H. 2011. Implementing curriculum change in religious education: A study of the perceptions of primary school religious educators in the Archdiocese of Hobart. Unpublished PhD thesis, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Australia. [Google Scholar] ). Constructivism emphasizes how knowledge is constructed on qualitatively different, progressively more adequate levels, as the result of the individual's action and interaction in the world either alone or with others, while constructionism emphasizes the characteristics of social participation, relationships, the setting of activity and historical change (Packer and Goicoechea 2000 Packer, M.J., and J. Goicoechea. 2000. Sociocultural and constructivist theories of learning: Ontology, not just epistemology. Educational Psychologist 35 (4): 227–241. [Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar] ). This article seeks to provide conceptual clarity around these two epistemological stances by comparing constructivism with constructionism in relation to three particular categories: (1) their origins and epistemological premises, (2) their ontologies, and (3) their purposes. It then articulates some implications concerning the use of each to contribute to research in the field of religious education. In doing so, this article makes a significant contribution to the refinement of theories of knowledge, and to their usage in qualitative research in religious education.

Document Type

Journal Article

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