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Content-Based Instruction Understood in Terms of Connectionism and Constructivism

  • Author(s): Lain, Stephanie
  • et al.

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Despite the number of articles devoted to the topic of content-based instruction (CBI), little attempt has been made to link the claims for CBI to research in cognitive science. In this article, I review the CBI model of foreign language (FL) instruction in the context of its close alignment with two emergent frameworks in cognitive science: connectionism and constructivism. I show that these frameworks offer powerful support for the features of CBI that make it an attractive alternative to textbook-based learning. In addition, I argue that the general principles associated with connectionism and constructivism suggest further avenues for development within CBI, especially in the areas of pattern recognition and speech processing.

To describe connectionism and constructivism as emergent frameworks in cognitive science is perhaps misleading. They would be better described as landmark theories that have in recent years experienced a revival, in large part due to the influence of research associated with increased brain imaging capabilities and large-scale computational modeling. Connectionism and constructivism originally stem from separate disciplines (mathematics and psychology, respectively). Conceptually, however, they are sufficiently broad as to have implications for many different fields. Taken separately or together, connectionism and constructivism have been especially influential in fields that deal with behavioral phenomena. Where there is an intersection between biology and culture, connectionism and constructivism provide the kinds of insights on learning that are otherwise difficult to untangle from the standpoint of a purely nature or purely nurture perspective.

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