Hannafin and Hill, “Epistemology and the Design of Learning Environments”

Hannafin and Hill contrast positivist and relativist epistemologies and, tracing the frequently contentious positions that adherents of one or the other philosophy have adopted historically, ultimately call for “an understanding and respect for both sets of beliefs about knowledge and both sets of design practices” (53). The authors present/align positivism, objectivism and instructional design in one camp and relativism, constructivism and constructional design in another. They argue, however, that both/all sides use “system approaches” to design–and that all should use “grounded design practices,” which are “anchored in a defensible theoretical framework, based on relevant research and theory, and validated through successive implementations” (56).

On the whole, I found Hannfin and Hill’s chapter very helpful in laying out many of the core epistemological/philosophical/theoretical concepts I’ve come across in so many of my courses so far. Though one of the points I found particularly interesting was the notion–or reminder?–that “[w]e all have epistemological beliefs–some formal and others tacit. These beliefs influence how we design, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously” (54).

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