Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Constructivist/Constructionist Learning 

The constructivist theory says that individual learners construct mental models to understand the world around them. Ways the instructional strategies correlate with principal of constructivist/constructionist learning theories is by understanding how students learn.  

The best way to help students  learn is by having students construct their own knowledge instead of having someone construct it for them. Learning is an active process of creating meaning from different experiences. In other words, students will learn best by trying to make sense of something on their own with the teacher as a guide to help them along the way.

The instructional strategies are put in place aligned with the constructivist theory with this understanding, that all sensory input is organized by the person receiving the stimuli, it cannot always be directly transferred from the teacher to the student. This means that a teacher cannot "pour" information into a student's brain and always expect them to process it and apply it correctly later. 

With the constructivist theory saying that individual learners construct mental models, i feel the instructional strategies were built on by certain guidelines. It should be recognized that a person's prior knowledge may help or hurt the construction of meaning. People's prior knowledge comes from their past experiences, culture, and their environment. Generally prior knowledge is good, but sometimes misconceptions and wrong information can be a hindrance. Sometimes time must be spent correcting prior knowledge before new learning can occur.


  1. Joanne to Byron

    As a high school geometry teacher I cannot make assumptions about what students' have learned in previous courses such as algebra I. Given the transient nature of society today I often have students in my classroom who earned their algebra credit in another state, county, or school within the district, and sometimes even another country.

    Your statement about how students cannot learn by teachers telling them what they need to know is exactly correct. As I tell my students all the time learning is their responsibility, but I also help them to understand what that means and provide strategies for meaningful learning. Paper and pencil tests cannot and do not provide the teacher with as much information about what a student has learned as does a final product created by a student.

    Constructionist learning theory also supports 21st Century Skills because when students create a final product they are also learning problem solving skills.

  2. You raised a very good point when you addressed how students' prior knowledge may help or hurt the construction of meaning. It is during the preliminary or "Engage Phases of Learning" that a teacher finds out what children already know about the topic. Dr. Orey defined Constructivism as learning derived from development through unique and personal meanings. (Orey, 2001)

    Integrating cognitive learning tools could be an effective instructional strategy that enhances the ability for students to retrieve information. "Cues are explicit reminders or hints about what students are about to experience." (Pitler et al, 2007) Providing analogies as an alternative scenarios would be another great instructional strategy. (Brooks 1993) A thinking skill demonstrated by a student when he or she can give examples similar to, but not identical to a target example. For example, the Internet is analogous to the post office (because in both, multimedia information is delivered to specific addresses)

    Integrating a variety of learning theories and instructional strategies that correlate with those theories can ensure that educators can facilitate meaningful and engaging lessons to all students.


    Brooks, J. and Brooks, M. (1993). In Search of Understanding: The Case for Constructivist Classrooms, ASCD

    Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

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

  3. Jason's Response to Byron's Blog

    I agree with your statement that students need to access prior knowledge to learn new material. As I learn more about the learning process, I realize that the only factor that I need assistance with is time. Our middle school have forty five minute classes. What I have found is that more time would be far more beneficial to the students. I often feel that students are dismissed to the next class just when connections are being made.
    Joanne wrote that her school participates in block scheduling. This would give my students ninety minutes in math class instead of just the usual forty five. I think this would go a long way toward helping students to make connections and giving them the opportunity to be immersed in the learning in a more meaningful way.

  4. @ Joanne No a teacher just can't teach just by telling a student what to do. Teachers need to ,ake sure each student is engaged to make sure the learning process is taking place.

    @ Justsaying and @Jason
    Prior knowledge plays an important role in students learning because prior knowledge determines how a stun dent interpets new knowledge