Constructivist vs behaviourist approaches in design computing education: implications for the innovation economy

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Seemann, KW 2002, 'Constructivist vs behaviourist approaches in design computing education: implications for the innovation economy', in H Middleton, M Pavlova & D Roebuck (eds), Proceedings of Learning in Technology Education, Challenges for the 21st century , Griffith University, Nathan, Qld., Centre for Learning Research, Griffith University, Nathan, Qld, vol. 2, pp.174 - 181. ISBN: 0909291748

Available on Open Access


This paper presents findings from an action research study over 2 years. The study compared competency standards driven (behaviourist) approaches with discovery (constructivist) approaches in the task of introducing and developing design computing prowess and highly adaptive independent, socially confident, learners. Two first year university student groups were compared. It was found that students exposed to the behaviourist approach initially showed better self confidence in skill tasks but quickly became highly dependent on detailed instruction. They generally displayed relatively little or no initiative to problem solve or meta-learn the software's capability and seemed to have difficulty transferring the use of the software skills to new design tasks without being dependent on new detailed step by step instructions. The constructivist group displayed significant initial anxiety, particularly among most (but not all) mature age students during the first half of their total learning time. However, in the latter stage of the constructivist groups learning period, the vast majority accelerated in their learning to produce advanced use of the software and a high willingness to share their 'discoveries' with peers compared to the first group. They also displayed high confidence to transfer to new design tasks and explore features of the technology independently and socially.