Constructivist Approaches are Compatible with Human Cognitive Architecture: A Response to Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006)


Learning is much more than memorizing. Learning refers to the acquisition of knowledge through interactions with, and observation of, the physical word and the creatures that inhabit it (Ashman & Conway, 1997). In order to really understand and be able to apply knowledge, students must work to solve problems, to discover things for themselves, and to struggle with ideas. The question of how to help students learn particular knowledge, skills, and concepts that will be useful in their life is at the core of the argument presented by Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006). The authors compare minimally guided instructions with instructional approaches that provide direct instructional guidance of the student learning process. They define minimally guided instruction as ”one in which learners, rather than being presented with essential information, must discover or construct essential information for themselves” and then inversely define direct instruction as “providing information that fully explains the concepts and procedures that students are required to learn as well as learning strategy support that is compatible with human cognitive architecture” (p. 1).

In their argument, Kirschner Sweller, and Clark (2006) affirm that minimal guided instruction approaches are less effective and efficient than fully guided instruction approaches because they ignore the structures that constitute human cognitive architecture. On the contrary to this, they put a strong emphasis on direct, strong instructional guidance, as an effective and efficient way to teach students. By referring to several studies concerning the efficacy of direct instruction (e.g., Klahr & Nigam, 2004), they claim that students learn more deeply from strongly guided instruction than from constructivist or discovery approaches. Opposing this claim, Kuhn and Dean (2006) have found that direct instruction does not work so well for robust acquisition or for maintenance knowledge over time.

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