Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Constructivism learning theories state that "each individual actively constructs his/her own meaning" and that "people learn best when they build an external artifact or something they can share with others." (Laureate Education 2008). Students construct meaning as they assimilate or accomodate new data. Students develop schemas, or beliefs and understandings as they learn. Constructivism is the idea that students develop these beliefs and understandings through the process of constructing something tangible. This could be a word processing document, a three dimensional model, a picture, or a project. Students retain more as they share these artifacts with one another. 

Using the idea of constructivism, students can focus on 21st century skills of communication, presentation, organization, self-assessment, and leadership when engaged in the building of artifacts. By implementing the ideas of constructivism, teachers can give students more freedom in choosing projects of interest to them and allowing students to use tools and technology that fit their particular learning styles and needs.

In the classroom, students can problem solve, investigate, invent, inquire, and make decisions. (Pitler 2007). Technology helps students with these processes by providing necessary tools. Instructional strategies play a major role as well. For example, teachers need to address these areas when preparing lessons for students. Rather than doling out information for memorization, teachers need to decide what the overarching goals are for their students, and then supply the tools and resources needed to allow students generate and test their own hypothesis. Teachers become the facilitators rather than the providers of information. In this way, students can explore their own ideas and take ownership of their learning.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009). Program seven. Constructionist and Constructivist Learning Theories [Motion picture]. Bridging learning theory, instruction, and technology. Baltimore: Author.

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


  1. Ginger

    I agree that when students become active in creating their own knowledge base, the learning is enhanced. It is initially a little difficult to expand the possibilities for our students and try to facilitate all of the choices they might make, but the outcome is so much more meaningful. You mention helping our students develop good traits in communication, presentation, organization, self-assessment, and leadership. These skills will be valued as assets in future classes as well as later on the job and in their personal lives. It is so important that they begin to build on these now in our classrooms.


  2. There is a lot that students profit from when they are allowed o make choices. I started to make use of this strategy quite recently, but I monitored success immediately. If you allow students make choices, they feel more freedom and often choose activities that and even more difficult than the ones you would probably aim at. What I also like about this is the choice they make as they just do not have to work on the level that the whole class choses. By this I mean that if they are more proficient, they can do more and the other way round. The vast variety of tools and resources that technology offer make tis easily possible, which I appreciate on daily basis.

  3. I could not agree more that students need to make their own decisions and make meaning of what they are doing. By having artifacts that they have done such as projects or models, they can then recall what the meaning behind those pieces are. Each person does something differently than their neighbor and learns in a different way. Whether it be by visual representation or simple hands on material, the student will do better if let to do as they wish. Having broad projects allows students to pick what they are interested in as you stated. Keeping a student motivated helps to keep them on task. By letting the student do what they want to, they will want to finish the project and do the best job on it since they want to learn the material.

  4. I have been trying to figure out in my district who the middle school culprit teacher is that is training my future science students to blindly memorize information from a book. This information typically cooresponds to bold word vocabulary type information. As a result every new batch of freshman science students I have are forced to relearn how to think before they can be successful in my science class. I never fully realized the problems in our schools with teachers making students memorize information as opposed to critical thinking style learning.

  5. Ginger,

    I could not agree with you more that students learn the best when building their own ideas of concepts. I know just in my math class, my students are more successful when working with a hands-on/exploring activity compared to when they sit and copy notes off the board. Students are more engaged and eager to learn when they are building their own ideas. It is more interesting to them and has more meaning for the real-world.