“Constructivism is the recognition that reality is a product of human intelligence interacting with experience in the real world. As soon as you include human mental activity in the process of knowing reality, you have accepted constructivism” Davis Elkind
Constructivism accepts reality as a construct of human mind, therefore reality is perceived to be subjective. Moreover, this philosophical approach is closely associated with pragmatism and relativism. In simple terms, according to constructivism, all knowledge is constructed from human experience. This viewpoint is based on inseparability between knowledge and knower.
Constructivism philosophy is based on cognitive psychology and its background relates to Socratic method, ancient Greece. Nevertheless, popularity of constructivism as a perspective in epistemology increased in recent years.
The main distinction between constructivism philosophy and positivism relates to the fact that while positivism argues that knowledge is generated in a scientific method, constructivism maintains that knowledge is constructed by scientists and it opposes the idea that there is a single methodology to generate knowledge.
There are various types of constructivism such as phenomenological constructivism, biological constructivism, cognitive constructivism and radical constructivism. However, in business dissertations you are not expected to discuss each of these types in great lengths. The Table 1 below illustrates the major differences between constructivism, positivism and pragmatism philosophies:
|Type of research||Qualitative||Quantitative||Mixed|
|Methods||Open-ended questions, emerging approaches, text and/or image data||Closed-ended questions, pre-determined approaches, numeric data||Both, open and closed-ended questions, both, emerging and predetermined approaches, and both, qualitative and quantitative data analysis|
|Research practices||Positions researcher within the context
Collects participant-generate meanings
Focuses on a single concept or phenomenon
Brings personal values into the study
Studies the context or setting of participants
Validates the accuracy of findings
Interprets the data
Creates an agenda for change or reform
Involves researcher in collaborating with participants
|Tests or verifies theories or explanations
Identifies variables of interest
Relates variables in questions or hypotheses
Uses standards of reliability and validity
Observes and then measures information numerically
Uses unbiased approaches
Employs statistical procedures
|Collects both, qualitative and quantitative data
Develops a rationale for mixing methods
Integrates the data at various stages of inquiry
Presents visual pictures of the procedures in the study
Employs practices of both qualitative and quantitative research
Table 1 Constructivism and other philosophical approaches
The most popular types of constructivism paradigm are illustrated in the Table 2 below:
|Type of constructivism||Explanation|
|Epistemological Constructivism||Knowledge is created by human perception and social experience|
|Social Constructivism (Social Constructionism)||Knowledge and reality are created by social relationships and interactions|
|Psychological Constructivism||People create systems to understand to understand their world and experiences|
Table 2 Types of constructivism paradigm
If you choose to use constructivism philosophy in your dissertation, you will have to explain the relevance of your research to constructivism by referring to its definition. Also, you can specify the type of constructivism your research relates to and explain its implications to the research process.
My e-book, The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Dissertation in Business Studies: a step by step assistance contains discussions of theory and application of research philosophy. The e-book also explains all stages of the research process starting from the selection of the research area to writing personal reflection. Important elements of dissertations such as research philosophy, research approach, research design, methods of data collection and data analysis are explained in this e-book in simple words.
 Andrew, P.S., Pedersen, P.M. & McEvoy, C.D. (2011) “Research Methods and Designs in Sport Management” Human Kinetics