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The Constructivism Zone. Constructivism: A psychological orientation that views learning as an active process in which the learner constructs understanding of the material they learn – in contrast to the view that teachers transmit academic content to student in small segments. By Lisa Garcia

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The Constructivism Zone

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The Constructivism Zone

Constructivism: A psychological orientation that views learning as an active process in which the learner constructs understanding of the material they learn – in contrast to the view that teachers transmit academic content to student in small segments.

By Lisa Garcia

Cindy Deligio

Bernadette Bennett


Major Theorist Jean Piaget (1869-1980)

  • Dedicated 75 years to research (Pub: 30 books, 15 doctorial works)

  • Research-developmental theory of knowledge (genetic epistemology)

  • Believes knowledge is a biological function which arises out of action

  • Four stages of developmental learning: Sensomotor, Preoperational, Concrete Operational, Formal Operational

“I am a constructivist. I think that knowledge is a matter of constant, new construction, by its interaction with reality, and that it is not pre-formed. There is a continuous creativity.”

Other Important Theorists

  • Ernest Von Glasersfeld

  • Born in 1917 at Munich, Germany

  • Major research in Radical Constructivism

  • Known for his work in educational reform

  • Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Univ. of Georgia

  • John Dewey(1859-1952)

  • American philosopher

  • Built upon Piaget’s Constructivist Theory

  • Major works: Pedagogy and Instrumentalism

  • Profound impact on Progressive Education

What Is Constructivism

  • Building knowledge structures

  • Puts knowledge into action, making learning relative to the real world

  • Enhances excitement conducive to student’s active role in learning

  • Teaching students how to acquire knowledge, life long skill

Constructivism Is NOT…..

  • The teacher’s role to dispensing knowledge, spoon feeding information for memorization

  • Dependent on textbooks as main resource of knowledge

  • Learners being told about the real world, but actively engaging in real world

  • Teacher’s lack of responsibility to educate, but rather allowing student to take control of their education

The Constructivist Teacher

  • Supports co-operative learning

    • Hands-on activities

    • Group projects

    • Enforces natural or realistic settings

  • Facilitates learning process

    • Introduce new ideas or cultural tools

    • Provide guidance for students to make sense of concepts

    • Promotes motivation and excitement for topic/learning

The Constructivist Teacher

  • Organize focused subject clusters

    • Set limits for the task

    • Guide students through examination

    • Know your student’s learning level

  • Ability to change and critically analyze

    • Follow established curriculum

    • Incorporate lessons based on student interest

  • Gives autonomy to student

    • Enable self-directed explorations and monitors work

    • Encourages independent thinking

Students Role

  • Active engagement, initiative

    • Engage in group discussions

    • Make predictions, seek answers

  • Exhibit inquiry

    • Student attains own intellectual identity

    • Take responsibility for their own learning

    • Become problem solvers

Students Role

  • Higher learning

    • Reflection, self-examination

    • Ability to think beyond given information

    • Summarize concepts, analyzing, justifying, defending their ideas

  • Communication and teamwork with others

    • Social discourse reinforces their ideas

    • Students become resources for their peers

From Theory to Practice

Popular Constructivist Subjects and

dedicated lesson plans are found at:

  • Technology

  • Math

  • Science

Positive Effects

  • Understanding and respect for

    diversity of perspectives

  • Builds trust in student’s own abilities

  • Student build understanding of the world

    they live in

  • Learn to creatively apply and seek knowledge

  • Teachers observe student’s learning progress

Negative Effects

  • Falls short of explaining basic skills

  • Lack of time to focus on students learning

  • Large classrooms affects lack of individual attention

  • Student’s inaccurate past knowledge can have impact on building new information

  • Lack of Participation, fear of rejection

Suggested Reading

Brooks, J. The Case for a Constructivist Classroom.

Alexandria, VA: ASCD Publishing. 1993.

Cobb, Paul. Constructivism in Math & Science.

Educational Researcher. 1994. 23(7). 13-20.

Dewey. John. Democracy and Education. The Macmillan

Company. 1916.

Jonassen, D.H. Computers in the Classroom: Mindtools

for Critical Thinking. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice

Hall. 1996.

References Not Mentioned

100 Persons of the Century. Time Magazine Online.

Burner, J. Constructivist

/Pedag/Constructivists.html 25 Oct. 2001.

Parkay, Forrest W.Becoming a Teacher, 5th ed. Allen & Bacon

Pub. 2001.

Sprague D. & Christopher Dede) If I Teach This Way, Am I

Doing My Job? Constructivism in the Classroom 30 Oct.


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