Article Annotations · EDU 800

Annotation – Week 1

Spiro, R. & DeSchyver, M. Constructivism: When it’s the wrong idea and when it’s the only idea. In S. Tobias & T. Duffy (Eds.), Constructivist theory applied to instruction: Success or failure. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Spiro and DeSchryver examined the usefulness, exclusions, drawbacks and benefits of the instructional methods of direct instruction, discovery, and the Cognitive Flexibility Theory (CFT) for well-structured domains (WSDs) and ill-structure domains (ISDs).  They described in detail the differences between WSDs and ISDs and how instructional methods for one area cannot be used in the other.  Overgeneralizing, oversimplification and dependence were said to be some of the drawback of direct instruction in WSDs while expanding representations, accepting multidimensionality, and independence were some of the benefits of CFT in ISDs. At the end of the article, implications for the need for deep learning and adaptive flexibility in the age of the Post-Gutenberg Mind were discussed as well as the importance of limiting direct instruction which was predicted to interfere with this evolution. According to the authors, it was imperative for students to learn to function in ISDs, and the Web was one area that is ripe for complex learning to take place driven by individual learners.

Spiro and DeSchryver used a variety of sources to support their points including ones from authors including Wittgensetein, Kirschner, and Sprio, himself, to name a few.  The information given was thorough, details and relevant to the topic. Scholarly works such as Educational Psychologist and information at were recommended for more detailed information about important areas of interest related to the topic of the article.  The article begins with an explanation of the organization of their argument and then proceeds through each step with examples, details and empirical evidence.

Teaching English as a Second Language is an ISD.  Using direct instruction techniques do lead to an oversimplified view of language where ESL students do not continue to develop the more advanced aspects of the language. The article by Sprio and DeSchryver refers to  CFT, but it does not give a complete picture of it, so I read  Cognitive Flexibility  Theory:  Advanced knowledge acquisition in ill-structured domains by Spiro (1988).  This a technical report explained CFT as well as ISDs.  One connection I made from the technical report to ESL was the importance of “repeating the presentation of the same complex case or concept information in new contexts, additional aspects of the mulitfacetedness of these ‘landscape sites’ are brought out, enabling the kind of rich representations necessary in complex and ill-structured domain” (p. 9).  The Human Speechome Project has documented this in regards to a child learning his native language.  A child learns a first language in an ISD and in a way that is structured following CFT.  In as much as direct instruction nor discovery does not work; exposure to a language where the landscape in which exposure occurs to criss-cross does occur and has been documented.  Implications of this need and examination of how children learn a first language can then be made to the importance of this same type of exposure for students learning a second language, too.


Roy, D., Patel, R., DeCamp, P., Kubat, R., Fleischman, M., Roy, B., … & Gorniak, P (2006). The Human Speechome project. In Symbol Grounding and Beyond (pp. 192 – 196). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

Spiro, R., Coalson, R. J., Fletovich, P. J., & Anderson, D. (1998). Cognitive Flexibility Theory:  Advanced knowledge acquisition in ill-structured domains. In proceedings of the 10th Annual conference of  the Cognitive Science Society, Hillsdale NJ: Erlbaum.

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