Willis and Wright call their–constructivist–instructional design (ID) model the “Reflective, Recursive, Design and Development (R2D2) model” (p. 5). They list the “three focal points” of this models as “Define, Design and Development, and Dissemination” (p. 5). This approach make reference to things like fractals, and is, I’m tempted to say, fairly rhizomatic in nature.
The authors complement their theoretical arguments with a number of practical considerations–such as tools for use (technology that should be considered for power, flexibility and accessibility; p. 9) and how to form and support/deploy a genuinely participatory team of designers (e.g. one comprised of students, teachers and subject experts). Their discussions of the (actual) design, evaluative and disseminative aspects of R2D2 are similarly complex yet thoughtful.
I agree with the authors when they speculate that “R2D2 may seem most radical when it is compared to other ID models in the linear tradition” (p. 16). This approach strikes me as one of the most radical I’ve read about so far. The style of this piece may be adding to this impression, though–which is not to say I didn’t enjoy it and find it very helpful.
Jonassen, Cernusca and Ionas frame their argument by pointing out that constructivism is not, as it is often characterized, an instructional methodology. It is rather “a philosophy that underlies theories from which pedagogies and models are derived. Constructivism is primarily an epistemological and ontological conception of what reality, knowledge, the mind, thought, and meaning are” (p. 46). They go on to describe constructivism’s impact on instructional design as a “shift in philosophical emphasis from the positivistic and deterministic assumptions made by instructional scientists to the social, historical, and constructivist assumptions made by learning scientists,” whose “preferred design method…is design research, a process that integrates design and research. Rather than applying theories (most of which are inadequately established by empirical research), design researchers integrate theories and design activities in an iterative process” (p. 51). The authors conclude by expressing their belief that “this design process is likely to produce more local, and thus more useful, instructional solutions to learning problems” (p. 51).
Smith and Ragan provided a set of detailed, fairly straightforward descriptions and thoughtful considerations on these foundations, as they (confessed “pragmatists,” middle-grouders) see them. The two poles the authors present are rationalism–of which constructivism is one form, wherein “reason is the primary source of knowledge and that reality is constructed rather than discovered” (19)–and empiricism–”sometimes termed objectivism,… postulates that knowledge is acquired through experience…. [, and that] experience allows an individual to come to know a reality that is objective and singular” (22).
Smith and Ragan subcategorize Constructivism into “Individual Constructivism” (19), “Social Constructivism” (20) and “Contextualism” (20). Between rationalism-constructivism and empiricism-objectivism, the authors place their own position, “Pragmatism,” which might be considered a ‘middle ground’ between rationalism (constructivism) and empiricism…. Although pragmatists, like empiricists, believe that knowledge is acquired through experience, they believe that this knowledge is interpreted through reason and is temporary and tentative” (22).
To me, one of the more interesting (if shorter) arguments that the authors make in this chapter addresses (as they see it) the need to study theory when working in design. In part alluding to the historically fragmentary nature of the field, Smith and Ragan note that “[t]heory bases are the common ground that we share with other professionals in the field” (18).