Course Purpose

The purpose of this course is to answer three fundamental questions:
What is the nature of knowledge?
How do we come to know?
How is knowledge valued?

Contact Information

Instructor: Peter E. Doolittle
Office: 226 War Memorial Hall
Web site:

Course Description

Constructivism involves the active creation and modification of thoughts, ideas, actions, and understandings as the result of experiences that occur within individual and socio-cultural contexts. Central issues in this creation of understanding include: (a) What counts as valid knowledge?, (b) How do we come to know?, and (c) How is the value of knowledge determined?

Constructivism emphasizes the active role played by the individual learner in the construction of knowledge, the primacy of social and individual experience in the process of learning, and the realization that the knowledge attained by the learner varies in its accuracy as a representation of an external reality. This course will explore these issues as they pertain to teaching, learning, technology, society, research, and education—broadly applied.

Ultimately, this course focuses on the construction of knowledge and knowing in everyday life.

Learning Goals

LG1: Students will be able to understand the concepts of ontology, epistemology, and axiology as related to the realm of education.
LO1: Students will be able to explain the essential concepts and terms associated with ontology, epistemology, and axiology as they relate to education.
LO2: Students will be able to apply the essential concepts and terms associated with ontology, epistemology, and axiology to educational and societal issues.
LO3: Students will be able to demonstrate a questioning and interpretive perspective on the nature, function, and investigation of knowledge within education and society.
LG2: Students will understand the similarities and differences between various types of constructivisms.
LO4: Students will be able to differentiate the core similarities and differences in ontology, epistemology, and axiology within various types of constructivism.
LO5: Students will be able to apply the core similarities and differences in ontology, epistemology, and axiology within various types of constructivism to educational and societal issues.
LG3: Students will appreciate the need to align constructivist philosophy, theory, and pedagogy in order to create a rationale for the use of constructivism in education.
LO6: Students will be able to integrate philosophy, theory, and pedagogy in the creation of sound constructivist educational methods.

Course Pedagogy

This course is based on a pedagogy that involves reading and thinking to understand, discussing and thinking to understand, explaining and thinking to understand, and applying and thinking to understand. The processes of reading, discussing, explaining, and applying take place before, during, and after the classroom experience so that students have the opportunity to revisit their knowing several times in order to develop, challenge, and clarify what they know.

The entry point for each aspect of the class is reading, reading both seminal works associated with each aspect as well as contemporary works. In addition, these readings will focus on both theoretical underpinnings and practical applications. Reading to understand is a critical component of the course, but only the beginning. There are no lectures in this class, rather, the classes will entail individual and social opportunities to develop, challenge, and clarify.

Ultimately, as a doctoral level course, there are doctoral level expectations for reading, discussing, explaining, and applying.

Course Readings

The course, in pursuit of it's three primary questions, is structured in six parts:

  1. Weeks 1-3: Constructivism Introductions
  2. Weeks 4-5: Radical Constructivism
  3. Weeks 6-7: Sociocultural Constructivism
  4. Weeks 8-9: Social Constructionism
  5. Weeks 10-11: Symbolic Interactionism
  6. Weeks 12-14: Constructivism Conclusions

There are typically two articles or one book to read each week. Click on the View Readings button to see all of the readings. The articles themselves are available online once your Log-In.

Course Learning

The activities in this class have all been created to foster learning, none of them were created with assessment or grading in mind. The learning aspect of this class depends on students engaging fully in the weekly readings. These activities are subsequently used for grading purposes, but only tangentially.

With that in mind, student performance will be evaluated in three primary ways, the completion of 25-word summaries, in-class concept priming activities, and daily class evaluations. The 25-word summaries provide an opportunity for students to extract the essential meaning from a reading, lecture, activity, or experience, and summarize that meaning clearly and concisely in 25 words. The In-Class Concept Priming activities are five multiple-choice questions and two short answer questions addressing each reading designed to foster knowledge retrieval and meaning construction. The daily class evaluations allow students the opportunity to reflect on their learning and provide feedback to the instructor on the conduct of the course. The assignments are delineated in the 25-Word Summaries, In-Class Concept Priming, and Daily Class Evaluations handouts.

25-Word Summaries
(13 x 100 pts each)

In-Class Concept Priming Activities
(20 x  20 pts each)

Daily Class Evals
(14 x 50 pts each)

Details on each of these activities are available once you have logged in.

Course Policies

Submitting an assignment late may result in a reduced grade, 50 points per day late. If you find it necessary to drop this course, for any reason, you must drop the class by February 25, 2019 (last day to resign is March 25, 2019). Students who are not officially dropped or resigned from the class must be given a grade at the end of the semester. All students are expected to attend class regularly and promptly, and to come prepared to class by having read the day's readings and contemplated the reading's meaning and application.
Virginia Tech welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. The University promotes efforts to provide equal access and a culture of inclusion without altering the essential elements of coursework. If you anticipate or experience academic barriers that may be due to disability, including but not limited to ADHD, chronic or temporary medical conditions, deaf or hard of hearing, learning disability, mental health, or vision impairment, please contact the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office (540-231-3788,, or visit If you have an SSD accommodation letter, please meet with me privately during office hours as early in the semester as possible to deliver your letter and discuss your accommodations. You must give me reasonable notice to implement your accommodations, which is generally 5 business days and 10 business days for final exams.
Mobile technologies, such as cell phones, tablets, and laptop computers may only be used in class for class related purposes. Please respect your fellow students and the professor by turning off cell phones before class begins and refraining from using computers and tablets during class to check email or social media. There will be time during class breaks to check email and social media.
The Graduate Honor Code will be enforced within this course. All assignments have a note regarding how the Graduate Honor Code applies to that specific assignment. Students unfamiliar with the Graduate Honor Code are encouraged to read the Graduate Honor System Constitution. Violations of the Graduate Honor Code are divided into four broad categories: cheating, plagiarism, falsification, and academic sabotage. Greater detail on the Graduate Honor Code may be found on the Syllabus and the Graduate Honor Code website.
In the presence of inclement weather, there are three guidelines related to class cancellation:
  1. University Cancels Class: VT campus closings due to inclement weather may be obtained by calling the Weather Hotline, (540) 231-6668, tuning to WVTF-FM 89.1 or 91.9, or viewing the VT home page If the university is closed, then we do not have class and I will send the class an email to that effect.
  2. Instructor Cancels Class: If the weather is potentially hazardous, and the university is not closed, then I may cancel class myself. If I cancel class, then I will send an email to the class indicating the cancellation no later than 4 pm (although I will try for 12:00 pm) the day of class with the final word regarding whether class will be held.
  3. Student Misses Class: If you determine that traveling to campus during inclement weather might be hazardous, then please send me an email indicating that you will not be attending class. Please use your best judgment in making this type of decision—be safe! If you decide not to come to class, based on inclement weather, you are still responsible for any work missed.
Virginia Tech is a public land-grant university, committed to teaching and learning, research, and outreach to the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and the world community. Learning from the experiences that shape Virginia Tech as an institution, we acknowledge those aspects of our legacy that reflected bias and exclusion. Therefore, we adopt and practice the following principles as fundamental to our on-going efforts to increase access and inclusion and to create a community that nurtures learning and growth for all of its members:
  • We affirm the inherent dignity and value of every person and strive to maintain a climate for work and learning based on mutual respect and understanding.
  • We affirm the right of each person to express thoughts and opinions freely. We encourage open expression within a climate of civility, sensitivity, and mutual respect.
  • We affirm the value of human diversity because it enriches our lives and the University. We acknowledge and respect our differences while affirming our common humanity.
  • We reject all forms of prejudice and discrimination, including those based on age, color, disability, gender, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, and veteran status. We take individual and collective responsibility for helping to eliminate bias and discrimination and for increasing our own understanding of these issues through education, training, and interaction with others.
We pledge our collective commitment to these principles in the spirit of the Virginia Tech motto of Ut Prosim.
Students are permitted to miss class due to religious or ethnic holidays. According to the registrar, "As a publicly funded institution of higher education, Virginia Tech does not officially recognize religious holidays and celebrations. However, as an institution we recognize the importance of such events in the lives of our community members. In the spirit of inclusive excellence and our Principles of Community, faculty, staff, and students are encouraged to be cognizant of major religious and cultural observances when planning courses and campus events and to be sensitive to potential conflicts"(see If you need to miss a class due to a religious or ethnic holiday, please consult with the instructor in advance of the holiday.
All students are welcomed and encouraged to communicate with the instructor on issues relating to the course, grading, and special issues. The best way to contact me is in person, before, during, or after class, or at my office (226 War Memorial Hall). The second-best way to contact me is via email If you use email and you do not get a response from me in 48 hours, please email me again (I appreciate the reminders!).
The syllabus is subject to change by the instructor in the event of extenuating circumstances. All changes will be announced in class and provided to students in writing.

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Contact Information

Peter Doolittle
226 War Memorial Hall
Blacksburg, VA 24060

Copyright © 2016-2019, Peter Doolittle. All Rights Reserved.