Social Constructions

What are they?

H. Russell Bernard (2002:3) discusses the differences in social science about the nature of our inquiry (also known as epistemology). He says that some believe "that reality is constructed uniquely by each person (the constructivist view) and those of us who start from the principle that external reality awaits our discovery through a series of increasingly good approximations to the truth (the positivist view).

While the perspectives on the nature of social science epistemology differ, the methods for gathering and analyzing data tend to be shared. The methods include both quantitative and qualitative techniques.

The premises of constructivism as an epistemology are:

  1. Knowledge is constructed, not transmitted.
  2. Prior knowledge impacts the learning process.
  3. Initial understanding is local, not global.
  4. Building useful knowledge structures requires effortful and purposeful activity.

For background go to the University of Massachusetts Physics Education Research Group

A SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIVIST VIEW OF COMMUNICATION

  1. There are always multiple meanings for every word, symbol or event.
  2. Meanings are constantly changing over time, across contexts.
  3. Language creates meaning, maintains meaning, reproduces meaning.
  4. At any one moment in time, a dominant, often taken for granted meaning exists.
  5. Taken together, these meanings, form systems of meaning, which we call culture.
  6. The health and well-being of every society depends fundamentally on its systems of cultural production.

Social constructions are found for:

aging
child rearing
death
environment
gender
knowledge
medicine
mental Illness
nature
play
time
space

Social Construction Examples

References

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Updated:Tuesday, 02-Nov-2004 20:08:00 PST