Construction of Knowledge

From social constructivism comes the recognition that knowledge is socially produced, challenging the historical view of knowledge as the product of individual mental faculties (Barkley, Cross, and Major). This individualism leads to what philosopher and educator Paulo Freire famously described as the “banking” model of education: knowledge is “a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing,” teaching is an act of depositing, and students are empty, passive vessels that receive static information (Freire 72).

Instructors informed by a feminist pedagogy reject this point-to-point view of teaching and learning, in favor of a more complex and social process of knowledge-making through interaction, collaboration, and negotiation (Barkley, Cross, and Major). They strive to join students in becoming members within, not above or outside of, a knowledge community. Here, every learner brings a specific perspective (or “standpoint” [Harding]) shaped by specific experiences in distinct social locations and groups. As such, students and teachers ideally learn with and from one another, co-constructing knowledge–both communal and contingent–together.

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