Social Science and Learning Defined

In the introduction Bernstein discusses the purpose of the book – to argue that the study of society – or social science – is in fact a science worthy of its name, just as natural science is a true science.  Bernstein discusses that while the turmoil of the 1960s changed the landscape of social science, and called into question much of what was believed about the study of society and politics, it also provided much of what was needed in terms of determining if the study of society and politics was in fact, a science.  Bernstein argues that his project will show there are basic similarities between the social and natural sciences, even though social science is in its infancy.  He concludes the introduction by declaring that the conclusion he seeks has not yet been decided.

Chapter one is a review of the empirical theory – and the nature and significance of the empirical theory in the social sciences.  Bernstein begins his argument by exploring the mainstream position in Robert Merton’s Social Theory and Social Structure, stating it is an excellent starting point and emphasizing that Merton recognized social sciences as true sciences, but one that was relatively young and the problem with comparing it to the older natural science.  Bernstein then explores Neil Smeler’s 1968 Theoretical Statement on Sociology as a Social Science and Its Application to Processes of Social change.  Bernstein says Smelser’s study was to the 60’s what Merton’s was to the 50’s.  He goes on to discuss George Homans’ criticism of functionalism.  He summarizes Homans’ criticism by stating that “functionalism in sociology has been based on a mistake”, after pointing out that much of Homans’ criticism was unfounded, and that they all actually agreed on certain points concerning theory.
Chapter one is a launch pad taking us into Bernstein’s study, where he “will explore the most serious attempts to re-examine and restructure social and political inquiry.” He uses several terms I did not understand:  praxis, polemic, phenomenology, prolegomena, to name a few.

The Ertmer & Newby article is a foundational reading and an article that will be referred to for some time.  It is stated that many designers are operating under the constraints of limited theoretical background.  The information provided is invaluable, but will take time and practice to fully comprehend.  The definitions of learning are helpful, and learning is a complex process that only appears easy to accomplish.  Care and thought must go into the objectives and strategies selected.  Empiricism-knowledge from experience-and rationalism-knowledge from reason-are the two positions of the origin of knowledge.  Learning is always changing, effective learning depends on many variables, and experience or practice does assist the process of learning. Also, adaptive learners are needed!



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