Re: challenge to constructivism in school instruction

From: Phil Chappell (
Date: Tue Sep 07 2004 - 03:54:02 PDT

On Sep 7, 2004, at 3:09 AM, quoted anon:

> That said, however, there
> is much less rigorous help available on how the
> balance between didactic and active learning should
> be struck, and how it might vary, for particular
> students and particular subjects at particular stages
> of learning.
In my recent readings of pedagogic discourse, I found a fascinating
paper that is available on-line: the abstract reads:

(In case the link below doesn't work, the direct link to the pdf file

Vertical Discourse: the role of the teacher in the transmission and
acquisition of decontextualised language

JILL BOURNE School of Education, University of Southampton, United


This article examines the production of pupils at different levels of
‘ability’ within the school setting. It uses the theoretical work of
Basil Bernstein, and particularly the concepts of vertical and
horizontal discourse, to critique contemporary forms of ‘progressive’
educational practice and to suggest a reappraisal of the possibilities
of more formal pedagogic strategies. The article uses detailed case
study material drawn from primary classrooms in England and Russia, the
practice in each underpinned by contrasting understandings of human
development and learning, to illustrate the way in which teachers
construct children’s learning either as the development of individual
competencies or as a collective social achievement, and thus position
children as more or less effective and successful learners. Finally, it
examines the way in which a secondary school teacher draws on her own
social positioning and life experiences as well as those of her
students to develop ways of relating school knowledge to local
knowledges, in this way encouraging students both to analyse the world
and to understand, and thus potentially work to transform, their own
position in society.

Also, the work of Frances Christie from Australia addresses the issue,
but not in such a specific way as to identify particular students and
particular subjects at particular stages of learning - a panacea seems
to be being called for, methinks.

I certainly think that we should be looking at the intersection of
spontaneous and scientific concepts, or as Bernstein similarly labels
them: horizontal everyday discourses and vertical pedagogic discourses,
with their different corresponding knowledge structures.

Great challenge, Mike!

Phil Chappell

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