Learning Theories - Activity 10

This is the summary table that our mini group has made to discuss the learning theory of ‘Constructivism’.



Constructivism develops social and communication skills for learners through collaboration and the exchange of ideas (Duffy and Jonassen (1992). Vygotsky (1988) believed that it was tasks that were just beyond our ‘zone of proximal development’ that required help from others were the most conducive to learning.

Learners are more actively involved in their own learning with a constructivist paradigm due to the emphasis on sensory input and this interaction with the environment is what Vygotsky (1988) believed caused learning to take place.

A constructivist environment develops learners’ critical thinking and understanding by presenting tasks that stretch the learner and are perfectly challenging (Vygotsky, 1988); attempting to develop what Piaget called ‘creative and innovative minds’ (1957).

In a constructivist learning environment, the learner is more likely to retain and be able to transfer new knowledge due to their own involvement in constructing new knowledge in the learning process and because their individual learning needs are met through differentiation.

Derry (1999) constructivism promotes independence because the learner is more involved in their learning than traditional pedagogical theories.”


Phillips (1995) states that constructivism fails in classroom settings when teachers fail to questionstudents about the position they hold, or do not challenge students to provide evidence to support their position.  In effect, through acknowledging that students have created their own reality by constructing it through theiir own experiences, constructivist teachers have no option other than accept the student's reality as being valid.

Some constructivists place the knowledge and experience of the child on an equal footing as that of the teacher, since the construction of a reality is unique to the individual

Some teaching methods are dismissed out of hand as being invalid by constructivists.  Lectures in particular are singled out by hard-line constructivists, even though where students have much experience of a topic this may be the most appropriate form of delivery.

The construction of beliefs plays a pivotal role in the creation of knowledge, but Siegel points out that constructivism in its most radical form does not distinguish belief from knowledge.  In responding to Elkind, Carson (2005)  says that for constructivism, which "posits that only subjective knowledge and relative truth are possible", any knowledge could be counted as true

Constructivist theory claims that students have prior knowledge and experience and bring this with them to new lerning situations.  These schemata are then activated and help to form the shape this new learning takes.  New experiences can be matched against previous experiences.  However, in the case that new experiences contradict knowledge that they have constructed, individuals tend to dismiss these until there is a mass of evidence contradictiong their initial position.  Constructivism is therefore resistant to revision.

Useful predictions or implications the theory makes

(Focussing more on implications)

Constructivism suggests is one of the first psychology theories of learning that suggests that learners are active participants and have to actively engage in the learning process precisely because they are have to 'construct' meaning out of the different sources of information that they are given.

The theory suggests that the 'knowledge' that a teacher has is not so important as the teacher's ability to stimulate the 'construction' process by being the 'facilitator' and asking the right kind of questions to allow a learner to stretch within their zone of proximal development.

The constructionist theory lends itself very easily to an 'individualised learning plan/programme', or perhaps even demands it? However, it also means that far more 'variable' or individually matched assessments need to be applied to fit the learning profile of any particular individual.

In traditional learning environments, a constructionist point of view is labour intensive and requires 'switched on' teachers who have to have the intellectual and emotional intelligence to provide the right environment to allows the learners to genuinely 'learn' through their own construction of schemata that gives them the foundational and fundamental understanding of a learned topic. 

In other words it is not a 'cheap' way of doing learning even if it has been demonstrated to work very well under well resourced conditions.

Whether this is possible with resources in traditional financially strapped schools, is a question that needs to be asked at a societal level if the society is not prepared to offer big and large incentives to support this kind of learning. This may explain why it hasn't been acknowledged has being the educational panacea that it initially promised it might be – mainly because the resourcing is inadequate."

How do they assist the understanding of elearning?

eLearning, or more specifically, the opportunity to capitalise on a constructionist implementation of the learning experience through eLearning with a Constructionist underpinning, is possible through a number of technologies.

Interaction may occur via a number of different channels that perhaps are not employed equally well by all learners. Learners who do not have great or strong verbal skills, may have difficulty to demonstrate to the teacher their thought processes. Written, drawn, performed or other formats of understanding may be shown outside of the traditional face to face classroom. 

The 'open' nature of learning in a constructionist learning environment, is more possible where one can theoretically ask learners to express their understanding through a number of different formats with the advent of technologies such as 'YouTube' or 'Slideshare' as well as blogging sites (e.g. Wordpress). 

All dependent of course if the eLearning environment allows, or encourages multiple channels to demonstrate learning/understanding."

Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.  -Will Durant