Problem-Based Learning, Videogames, Inquiry Learning, Constructivism, Pedagogical Agents…All Bad?

I noted earlier how Richard Clark, Paul Kirshner, and John Sweller (inventor of cognitive load theory) published a journal article claiming that all constructivist inspired approaches to education are a complete failure (that is their wording), such as problem-based learning, constructionism (logo, lego mindstorms, scratch, one laptop per child), and inquiry-based learning. I’ve since found that Clark also has written similar articles against animated pedagogical agents (see this response) and also against the use of videogames in education (p.56 in the May-June issue of Educational Technology Magazine, which is available online at least temporarily). Curiously though, he supports the use of simulations but not videogames, even though a) simulations are essentially a discovery learning environment at root, contradicting the earlier argument that constructivist approaches are a failure and b) there is really no clear line between a simulation and a game. There are games that are simulations of course (sim city, etc.), and one can have game-like interactions with even pure simulations such as flight simulators. While the full text of the response to Clark’s argument against pedagogical agents is not freely available online, and no responses were written to his other opinion piece against videogames, he was kind enough to post the full text of the responses to his original article against constructivism, PBL, and inquiry learning:

If all these are bad, what have Clark et al. said is good?: direct instruction and giving students worked out solutions to the problems they are working on, such as what you see in a teacher’s edition of a textbook:

   Skinner: Um, ladies and gentlemen, the unthinkable
            has happened.
            Some sick, twisted individual has stolen
            every teacher's edition in this school.
   Teacher: What'll we do!?
   Ms. K:   Declare a snow day!
   Teacher: Does anyone know the multiplication table?
   Skinner: No, please, don't panic.  [peers out the window]
            They can smell fear.

 The next day...
   Ms. K:  Children, I know this is highly irregular,
           but for the rest of the uh day, Martin will be
           teaching this class.
   Martin: I will?  But I wouldn't know where to begin.
   Ms. K:  Just do it, Brainiac!
Posted in learning sciences, research
2 comments on “Problem-Based Learning, Videogames, Inquiry Learning, Constructivism, Pedagogical Agents…All Bad?
  1. Doug Holton says:

    Actually the full text of the response by Veletsianos to Clark & Choi is available online here:

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