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Compulsory Participation in Online Discussions: Is This Constructivism or Normalisation of Learning?

IETI Volume 45, Number 2, ISSN 1470-3297


A constructivist approach in teaching and learning requires one to change various habitual ways for thinking (von Glasersfeld 1995). There is a need for different ways of thinking and doing things, if conventional education is to realise a constructivist worldview. Educators and trainers in both academic and work sectors are promoting the use of the Internet for flexible and learner-centred learning. The intention of this paper is to examine the popular online learning pedagogy and question if the emerging formal higher education practices advocate a constructivist view of knowledge. The discussion begins with an introduction to the constructivist view. Although participation in online discourse is popularly recognised as social constructivism, the problematisation and critique of online practices help to challenge the formal education interpretation of constructivism. References to the emerging research and established literature on learning are used to identify the normalising influences of academic courses that require compulsory participation in online discussions. The choice to learn in silence is discussed in reference to the power differences influencing online discussion participation. The emerging online pedagogy is challenged for its limited appreciation of diverse learning preferences that is a central aspect of constructivism. The conclusion of the paper draws from data analysis in the author's doctorate study, which is in progress. It proposes how online and offline educators who aim for learner-centred and constructivist learning could use the insights gained from this analysis. (Contains 2 figures.)


Gulati, S. (2008). Compulsory Participation in Online Discussions: Is This Constructivism or Normalisation of Learning?. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 45(2), 183-192. Retrieved March 29, 2020 from .

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