The notion that people seek to make meaning out of their world, whether it is the classroom or the living room, is not a new one. Educational philosophers and learning theorists have attempted to explain how learners learn and construct meaning from instruction or the classroom. Stimulus-response theorists (Thorndike, Guthrie, Pavlov—as cited in Hilgard & Bower, 1966; Watson, 1960; and Skinner, 1960) view learners as reactive, passive robots only responding when stimulated by something outside of themselves. Reese & Overton (1970) propose to call this the mechanistic world view—any change in the learners comes from outside of themselves. Organismic theorists (Dewey, Tolman—cited in Kingsley & Garry 1957; Lewin, 1951; Combs & Snygg, 1959; Bruner, 1968; and Freire, 1970), on the other hand, contend that learners are active, organized entities who seek meaning from their own experiences to solve problems; to create relationships between signs and desired goals; to manipulate information and knowledge to fit new tasks; and to evaluate whether the way they have manipulated information is adequate to the task. The desire for self-actualization is the driving force which motivates the behavior of organismic learners.
Proceedings of SITE 98, Vol. I, 125-129.