Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Constructivism in Practice

The constructionist theory focuses on the individual concept of learning. This theory is based on the idea that each individual constructs their own meaning of knowledge.  As teachers, this should be an easy concept to understand because we understand that each student learns and processes information differently. However, teachers focus on the constructionism theory of learning, which suggests that individuals learn best when build or create something that can be shared with others. Many teachers use this learning theory as a form of assessment. If our students can build a product, finish a problem, or complete an assignment or project that we can measure if learning occurred. Together in a “perfect classroom” the two can be used to create equilibration. This would mean that teacher and student can find a balance between the content being taught and how well the student understands the information in order for learning to occur.
There are several instructional strategies that can be applied to the constructivist or constructionist learning theory. One of the most common instructional strategies that teachers use is technology. Technology is useful because it applies to both theories. Each individual student can use technology to construct a product based on how they understand and interpret the information. I see this a lot when PowerPoint presentations are assigned in my classroom. Each student puts the information in their own words so it is easy for them to present and understand.  Every PowerPoint and presentation is created, designed, and presented differently to fit the personality of each student. However the end result is the same, the concept or subject matter is learned effectively. A second instructional strategy that teachers use is generating and testing a hypothesis. In this strategy we allow students to assimilation or generate a question based on the information they understood and then we allow students to accommodate by testing their hypothesis or proving if they were correct. In the classroom the concept of generating and testing hypotheses is done in many different forms including problem-solving, inquiry based approaches or projects. Again technology can offer a huge advantage to this different because technology can be used to view, interpret, analyze, and report data. We can even use technology to translate data into visual aids such as spreadsheets, charts, or graphs.
I do believe that in the classroom constructivist and constructionist theories are used often. It is important to let each student process and learn information that best suits their learning style. At the same time, every teacher strives to have their student create a meaning product that can demonstrate what they have learned. By creating activities that allow students to create an artifact we are not only promoting effective learning but we are keeping students engaged as well. This creates an ideal environment where students are not only learning from the teacher but from each other as well.  I have learned that this helps tremendously in the classroom. Students may not always understand when I explain a concept but sometimes having a classmates explain the same concept in their own language can make a world of difference.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer) (2010) Constructionist and Constructivist Learning Theories. Retrieved from
Pitler H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD


  1. I agree with you that constructivist and constructionist theories are used often in the classroom especially where project based or hands on learning is essential to the lessons. Most of the lessons I have in my classes have to do with the student creating a final product based on the content of the course, my presentation, and the student's interpretation and understanding of the material. Even without technology, students get a meaningful activity that keeps them actively learning and processing the information. With technology the experience is taken to a higher level, more skills are developed and practiced, and students gain a greater sense of confidence due to their accomplishment. Students will more readily share their artifact with student as well as their expertise.

  2. I agree that having another student teach to a struggling student is a very effective strategy. I always make my students explain how they came up answers in Math. They grumble, but I tell them if you can teach someone else then I know you know it. I am learning to be a better facilitator. It is hard to give over those reins, but I have found that while your planning time is greater the grading time is less. Have you noticed this?

  3. Something jumped out at me while reading your post. You mentioned that teachers strive to have their students create a MEANINGFUL product that can demonstrate what they've learned. I think the key word is "meaningful". I've always had a hard time with some activities that are assigned to students as I don't see how they are truly meaningful. For example, my daughter had to choose an Ohio native animal to do a research project on. In addition to the written portion she also had to create a diorama where the animal was in its habitat. Not a problem, but I was in her classroom one day after school and it hit me like a sack of bricks. This was a project for the parents. If the parents were willing to spend the money on the project and give them their time to help the student complete it (I have to admit though that many didn't look like they'd been made by a 7 year old, but more like an adult) then good for them. Those who didn't have that were kind of left out in the cold. I just didn't think that this was a truly meaningful activity. What did the students really take away from it?

  4. What a fantastic post! I completely agree with you when you discuss the use of both the constructivist and constructionist theories in the classroom. Both theories play a significant role in our classrooms and are necessary when finding the balance. Balance is key to anything and for our students they often have better understanding of a concept that we have taught when they are able to put it into their own terms. Your discussion of meaningful activities has really sparked my interest. I think that often as teachers we get wrapped up in the fact that with have to cover a,b and c, but forget that is has to make sense and have a purpose for our students. As a Physical Education Teacher, there are many concepts within my curriculum that can be quite confusing for my students. With that knowledge, I take the opportunity to explain it to them in a way that is meaningful and then provide them the opportunity to relate to it and often use the think, pair, share strategy to apply the concept.

  5. When you stated, that creating an actual project "creates an ideal environment where students are not only learning from the teacher but from each other as well" I found this so important and true. Sometimes I feel like certain students respond better to their classmates explaining a technique (even though I have gone over it in various ways repeatedly). Like you, I see students making connections when it come from their classmates "language". Peer-teaching doesn't happen often, but when it does I like it because I believe it is also promoting cooperative learning, which we know students greatly benefit from.