Friday, 15 February 2013 14:10

Relational Constructionism Featured

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As I read more and more about knowledge building and social construction, and as I ponder the mysteries of how we actually learn, I am becoming increasingly fond of the idea of relational constructionism, a theory that brings alternative assumptions regarding the construction of reality and knowledge production (Gergen, 2009). By arguing that meaning is socially constructed through the interactions of people, constructionism can offer new ways of understanding, broadly and in the educational system specifically. (Gergen , 2001).

As you (4th year students) venture forth into your 10 week internship, please pay close attention to the people around you. One of the main tenets of relational constructionism is that truth and reality is in relation to our surroundings. Acceptable behaviour changes depending on who is in the room, or indeed which room you are in.

Naturally, basic facts such as 2+2 = 4 do not change, but the value of that fact does change. The requirement of knowing that fact changes, and how you might be assessed on that piece of knowledge. All these changes happen in relation to the people (humanistic), the time and place (longitudinal), the location (situational), and your culture. Remember, YOU are part of that fabric. I strongly believe that if you place yourself in your situation, rather than sit and pretend to observe from the outside, you will be far more successful.

One issue you will encounter is change. This can be a frightening thing and ther is an entire body of research devoted to "Change Management". Think about why this may be - there is no single answer.

When planning your strategies, think about the power of narrative. Do not be afraid to talk to people and have a conversation with them. I think this is an elemental aspect of the local culture. This is where Conversational Leadership" may come into play. Read this article on conversational leadership from the Harvard Business School. One of the main points is, "It's about trust, it's about being authentic, it's about communicating your vision but also at the same time listening..."

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Conversational Leadership

I also strongly urge you to have a look at this website on relational constructionism and in particular the sections on narrative and interviewing. A 21st century approach to learning encourages students to share their ideas openly and then build their own understanding of the world around them (Lowenthal & Thomas, 2010). This means that you need to let people have a say in their own lives and learning.

Gergen, K. (2001). Social Construction in Context. London: SAGE Publications Ltd. (UK). Retrieved 2012, from

Gergen, K. (2009). Relational Being. New York: Oxford University Press.

Gergen, K. (2011). Relation Being: A Brief Introduction. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 24(4), 280-282. Retrieved August 29, 2012, from

Hui, N., & van Aalst, J. (2009). Participation in Knowledge-Building Discourse: An Analysis of Online Discussions in Mainstream and Honours Social Studies Courses. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 35(1). Retrieved September 16, 2012, from

Read 5214 times Last modified on Sunday, 17 February 2013 12:26
Dr. Paul Leslie

Associate of Taos Institute:

Education is a Community Affair. 

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