Term of Art: Construction of Meaning

“construction of meaning: The act of thinking about ideas, events, and texts and ascribing significance to them. Those who use this phrase typically assert that texts are cultural products that do not have a meaning in and of themselves; rather, the reader constructs their meaning, depending on his or her prior experience and knowledge, his or her emotional state at the time of the reading, and the political and social climate in which he or she lives. Or, put another way, the text has no necessary relationship to what its author intended. This popular literary theory encourages readers to avoid seeking the author’s purpose, since the author’s purpose is allegedly irrelevant; it also encourages readers to believe that a text says whatever a reader thinks it does, which is a highly narcissistic, solipsistic notion. Teachers who act on this belief encourage students to believe that what they feel about a text is more important than the text itself.”

Excerpted from: Ravitch, Diane. EdSpeak: A Glossary of Education Terms, Phrases, Buzzwords, and Jargon. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2007.

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