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Instrumentalism as an educational concept


Experiences of teachers give evidence that the usal distinction between instrumental and relational understanding, as defined by the psychologist, is insufficient to interpret learning in an educational context. The learner often possesses relational understanding of some knowledge, for which he sees no use, outside its importance as “schoolknowledge”. The author analyzes a more general concept of instrumentalism. He defines it as a rationale for learning, connected to the role school has as an instrument for future schooling and employment. Examples of use of the project method are given, which can help to establish another rationale for learning.

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Bergen State College of Education

The author of this article is a senior lecturer at the Bergen State College of Education. He has practised for several years as a teacher in the comprehensive school, where he has worked especially among the slow learners. In his native language he has written several books on mathematics education.

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Mellin-Olsen, S. Instrumentalism as an educational concept. Educ Stud Math 12, 351–367 (1981).

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  • General Concept
  • Project Method
  • Educational Context
  • Relational Understanding
  • Usal Distinction