Critique of Constructionism, Learning by Design, and Project Based Learning Written by Han and Bhattacharya

Diana de la Rosa-Pohl
University of Houston

General Comments

Overall I felt that this chapter was a very comprehensive discussion of the stated topics and the flow of information was very well organized. The authors did a very good job of providing a thorough explanation of the main two instructional methods associated with constructionism and all of the concepts were tied to a concrete example throughout the document (Kayla’s Training Session) giving the reader a clear picture of how these concepts can be applied in a real world setting. This approach is very helpful in understanding the content. The authors have also done a nice job of relating constructionism to each method discussed (learning by design and project-based learning).

The document was divided into three main parts: a discussion on constructionism and how it relates to constructivism, a discussion on learning by design, and a discussion on project-based learning. I have therefore divided my comments into the same three topics below.

“Constructionism” Discussion

The “Kayla’s Training Session” example at the beginning of the section worked very well to set up the motivation for the chapter. It was easy to understand and very general so that most readers could relate to the topic. The authors continued to use that example to tie in each of the subtopics as the chapter progressed. I immediately began to think how I could use these techniques in my own instruction.

The authors immediately followed the presentation of Kayla’s Training Session with reflective discussion questions. Placing these questions immediately after the example but before the instructional material is very effective in fostering critical thinking about the topic. It allows the reader to make their own judgments about the method before reading the instructional material. It also allows the reader to solidify their initial opinions before contrasting them with the ideas of the author.

One complaint I have about this section is the video used. I can see how the authors wanted to present the material in a different media format, however the video linked in this section was not very effective as an instructive tool. The content shown in the video did not reinforce the concepts being described by the narrator and the narration was dry and uninteresting.

The authors have done a good job of differentiating between constructivism and constructionism in this section, although an actual example highlighting the differences would have been beneficial. Also, I would have liked to have seen them address the differences between project-based learning and problem-based learning. They do introduce a link to an explanation but the link does not work.

“Learning By Design” Discussion

This section of the chapter was very well written and organized; however again, the choice of multimedia here does not add to the instruction and does not clearly demonstrate the topic. The video uses very rough animation with simplistic drawings and is not visually interesting. It also appears to me to be too low level for the target audience of this web site.

“Project-Based Learning” Discussion

This section introduced some confusion for me. After just reading the section on learning by design it seemed to me that learning by design and project-based learning are the same instructional method. The only difference between the two approaches that I could determine from the text is the amount of time spent on the project. This hardly seems like a reason to differentiate between two different instructional approaches. If there is in fact a meaningful difference between the two, then a table comparing and contrasting the two methods would have been very helpful. In fact there was a very good table outlining the important aspects of Project-Based Learning in this section. It clearly outlined the roles of student and teacher in a visually pleasing way.

Something else that I would have liked to have seen in this section is cited references where they list the benefits of project-based learning. This is my area of research and I would like to know where the research is to support these claims so that I could perhaps use it in my own literature reviews. However, the claims are merely stated here with no supporting evidence. In one instance, a claim was made about project-based learning that wasn't supported by the following discussion and no reference was cited.
I did however like that the authors included many links to web sites containing information on project-based learning, although I would have liked to have seen some higher education resources. All of the linked examples came from one main web site which is a K-12 web site.

Errors in the Text

In the sixth paragraph on the section "Constructionism: Instructional Model" there is a typo in the fifth sentence. The sentence should read "or from the Internet" and not "or the from Internet."
In the first line of the section titles "Constructionism: What is it?" there is an inactive link. The reader is instructed to "click here" but there is no hyperlink coded.
In the "Sample Project Description" section, the last link for the Civics Project in incorrect.