Constructivism and More

Jean Piaget
Jean Piaget

One aspect of being the Director of Research is to assure that there is a clear understanding of the underlying epistemological theory base that informs not only the research that the Center is focusing on, but that will inform the way in which that research will be translated. That constructivist epistemology is one developed primarily by Jean Piaget over his 60-year career and that over that time was always a work in progress. Since his death in 1980 many have continued his work and others, such as Ernst von Glasersfeld, have worked to interpret and elaborate his epistemology.

At the AIMS Center for Math and Science Education, we have formed a team to work at understanding deeply the various components of the constructivist theory. Along with understanding a constructivist epistemology, we believe it is important to understand where such an epistemology stands in relationship with other epistemologies. For example, we know that constructivism stands somewhere between innatism and empiricism, and of course there are others such as pragmatism and objectivism. We would like as a Center to be able to speak intelligently about at least some of the more prominent of these “isms” and be able to make an argument as to why the choice of constructivism. In addition, we are delving into the literature connecting neuroscience and learning, to consider the impact of neuroscience on our work here at the Center.


The goal of this team will ultimately be to prepare documents that not only articulate the constructivist theory, but that will provide an abundance of examples to illustrate and describe in less technical language an understanding of the theory.

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Richard Thiessen, Ph.D. – Director of Research — (559) 255-4094

Richard ThiessenAs Director of Research, Richard Thiessen is setting the vision for the knowledge translation happening at the AIMS Center for Mathematics and Science Education. He is also serving the role of Senior Researcher, leading a team involved in translating research related to the development of number sequences in young children. Richard is a professor emeritus at Fresno Pacific University, where he served as Director of the Graduate Math/Science Education Program for many years. During that time he was the PI and Co-PI for Eisenhower and NSF grants, respectively. For the past 14 years, Richard has been the President of the AIMS Education Foundation. With respect to his involvement in mathematics, one of Richard’s passions has been teaching and exploring geometry, especially three-dimensional geometry. A second passion not unrelated to the first is mechanical puzzles and in particular, three-dimensional mechanical puzzles that help students make concrete connections to geometric concepts and relationships. Dr. Thiessen received a Bachelors degree in mathematics from Friends University, a Masters in mathematics, and Ph.D. in mathematics/mathematics education from the University of Oklahoma.