A learner brings a unique set of experiences and beliefs about the world into the constructivist epistemology (Smith & Ragan, 2005; Tam; 2009). A learner cannot be directed or led to expand their understanding, the learner gains understanding “in” the interactions with the environment, a core concept of constructivism, according to Savery and Duffy (1995). What is learned and how it is learned are not separated in this view. Meaning is constructed in our minds as we interact with the physical, social, and mental worlds we inhabit (Swan, 2005).
The constructivist worldview or paradigm is one of the philosophical underpinnings of the mixed methodological approach (Creswell & Clark, 2011). Constructivism is typically associated with a qualitative research methodology. With the use of a bottom up method, where individuals express understandings and views, patterns build, which lead to theories and generalizations through a mixed methods research approach (Creswell & Clark, 2011). In the constructivist worldview there are multiple participant meanings, and the researcher actively looks for multiple perspectives from the participants (Creswell & Clark, 2011). The use of a survey utilizes a more post positivist worldview and quantitative focus; while following the survey with a qualitative phase shifts the study back to a constructivist perspective (Creswell & Clark, 2011).
The choice to use a mixed methods approach may be justified by the newness of online learning and the lack of research on the integration of cloud and Web 2.0 applications, an area I intend to research. Instruments are available to measure technology proficiency and training on new technologies, however this source of data is insufficient in explaining the perceptions and choice of use and integration by instructors. A second, explanatory method is needed to gain a deeper understanding and analysis. The use of both quantitative and qualitative data would ensure a more thorough analysis of the results (Creswell & Clark, 2011). My research in the social science area uses a non-positivist approach. It needs a human element, gathered through interviews, to provide a more complete picture and to enlighten others. The instructors’ voice is not represented best through numbers or measures. This approach to research is closely aligned with the others I work with in class and research with.
Creswell, J. W., & Clark, V. L. P. (2011). Designing and conducting mixed methods research. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Savery, J. R. & Duffy, T. M. (1995). Problem based learning: An instructional model and its constructivist framework. Educational Technology, 35, 31-38.
Smith, P. L. & Ragan, T. J. (2005). Instructional Design. 3rd Edition. US: John Wiley & Sons
Swan, K. (2005). A constructivist model for thinking about learning online. In J. Bourne & J. C. Moore (Eds), Elements of Quality Online Education: Engaging Communities. Needham, MA: Sloan-C.
Tam, M. (2009). Constructivism, instructional design, and technology. Research Methods for Educational Technology: Constructivist Instructional Design Foundations, Models, and Examples. Charlotte, NC, USA: Information Age Publishing.