Constructing knowledge and structures

The Edelson (2001) articles presents us with a challenge that is not only unique to math and science teachers, but to educators of all subject areas in K-12: “teach more content more effectively, [and] devote more time to having students engage in [inquiry] practices” (p. 355).  Although multiple research articles as early at the 1960s have shown the benefits of inquiry learning, educators are resistant to change because of a perceived time crunch (Edelson, 2001).  We are presented with a design framework called the Learning-for-Use (LfU) model in an attempt to showcase how technology can be integrated to include both content and process learning.

LfU is based on 4 principles that many other contemporary learning theories utilize (Edelson, 2001):

  • Learning takes place through constructing new knowledge and modifying previous knowledge
  • Knowledge construction is goal directed
  • The situations in which the knowledge is constructed matters and affects its ability to be used in other circumstances

I am hard pressed to find a difference between LfU and constructivism.  A project that I would attempt with my Math 9  students would be to utilize a computer assisted drawing (CAD) program to challenge students to a design a structure and then determine the material costs associated with the structure; I would utilize this project to teach surface area and volume.  I would have to set parameters such as ensuring the structure had pillars of different shapes (cylinders etc) and also ask them to research actual prices of concrete, wood, and any other material they needed to complete their project.  From a motivational standpoint, they would determine the need to know how to figure out volume (how much concrete is needed for the support pillars) and surface area (how much paint do I need?).

Any thoughts on the project or gaps you might see?


Bodzin, A. M., Anastasio, D., & Kulo, V. (2014). Designing Google Earth activities for learning Earth and environmental science. In Teaching science and investigating environmental issues with geospatial technology (pp. 213-232). Springer Netherlands.

Edelson, D.C. (2001). Learning-for-use: A framework for the design of technology-supported inquiry activities. Journal of Research in Science Teaching,38(3), 355-385. 10.1002/1098-2736(200103)38:3<355::aid-tea1010>3.0.CO;2-M


  1. Hey Baljeet,

    These are some good questions! I too am increasingly confused by the resistance of educators to move to a more student-centered model, especially in light of research that indicates that it is best-practice. For the first time in three years, I started Summer School yesterday and I wanted to share a couple of “bon mot” from the meeting notes that I feel are relevant to the psyche of traditional teaching:

    “Students in remedial cannot achieve a mark higher than 63%”

    “Students with “summer school denied” on their report card should not be admitted to your class.”

    “The curriculum must be covered regardless of a student’s ability to keep up with the material.”

    The discipline section went on for quite some time as well–it was a scene straight out of “Orange Is The New Black”. The entire conversation was deficit-based and bean-counting. I just about fell out of my chair! I go into my first lesson of Math 10 today with some trepidation, knowing that many of the learning theories we are studying say that authentic learning takes time, especially inquiry!

    1. Michael,

      That sounds like quite the meeting! It must have been challenging sitting there and taking it all in especially with the amazing work you do with your students at your current school (and see the learning taking place too). I have been in similar, more informal, situations where the fastest most efficient approach is adopted because all the curriculum must be “covered”; although I have never taught summer school, I know it is quite condensed.

      Good luck!

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