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Constructivism is a theory of learning that is developed from the principle of children's thinking. Constructivism states that children learn through adaptation. Children are not passive in knowledge, but active at making meaning, testing out theories, and trying to make sense out of the world and themselves.  Constructivism is a philosophy of learning founded on the premise that, by reflecting on our experiences, we construct our own understanding of the world we live in. Each of us generates our own “rules” and “mental models,” which we use to make sense of our experiences. Learning, therefore, is simply the process of adjusting our mental models to accommodate new experiences. (funderstanding) It is also considered to be a child centered theory that focuses on the knowledge of interpretation and experience-based activities. The focus of the knowledge is no to be reproduced, but it is to construct context-rich activities, according to (Matusevich)


Primary Theorists  



PERSONAL INFORMATION: Jean Piaget (1896-1980) was a Swiss scientist noted for his extensive research related to child development and how children learn (Piaget). In studying children and the way they think, Piaget was able to form theories on how people in general develop knowledge through actual, tangible research he conducted at the Rousseau Institute in Geneva (Butler-Bowdon). In accordance with the underlying principle of constructivism, Piaget believed that knowledge is not the ability to memorize teacher directed facts, but instead knowledge is the ability to transcend what one knows into a broader or improved understanding of material and the experiences in which the material is presented. The life experiences each child brings to the classroom will help determine how they process new material. Believing this, Piaget asserted that people glean knowledge either through accommodation or through assimilation and ultimately that how each individual perceives reality affects how they perceive new information (Piaget). <>


CONTRIBUTIONS TO EDUCATION:  Piaget's most prominent contributions to education include his theories on cognitive developmental stages and his theory on how children inherently learn. According to Piaget, children learn through a process known as adaptation which is the ability to adjust to one's environment (The Theories of Jean Piaget). <> Piaget has asserted that there are two main components to adaptation: assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation occurs when the child uses an old schema or skill out on a new object. For instance, a child may typically place toys into his/her mouth. When confronted with a new toy such as a beach ball the child will use his old schema for toys which is to try to place the ball into his mouth. Accomodation, on the other hand, is when the child realizes the old way will not work. For instance, the beach ball will not fit into his mouth for sucking on. The child will have to adjust his prior schema to more suitably use the beach ball. So no he may still "mouth" the beach ball but will not be able to activitely place the beach ball into his mouth. So the child is either applying previously acquired skills to a new situation in order to understand it or adjusting the skills or accomodating acquired skills to better understand a situation. Another key component of Piaget's learning theory is that in order for children to actively construct their knowledge and understand new content they must have the maturity requried to comprehend it. Essentially, Piaget's theory implies that there is no sense in teaching material to a child until they reach a certain level of maturity because are not able to process it any earlier. His theory provides an explanation, based on observation and research, on when children can understand certain material. Humans progress through a series of cognitive stages including the Sensorimotor Stage which is when children are from ages zero to approximately 18 months. At 18 months they cognitively mature into the Preoperational Stage and this lasts until around age seven. These first two stages are primarily based around the theory that young children are highly egocentric or that they see that world as revolving around them or based on what they know. From the ages of seven until about 11 children are in what he referes to as the Concrete Operational Stage and from age 12 on through adulthood humans are in the Formal Operations Stage. At this level children begin to understand the view points of other people, however some people never mature far into this cognitive stage. Piaget's stages of cognitive development are controversial because many theorists believe the ages he suggests that the stages begin are too inflexible. Many believe that children can, indeed, learn material ahead of their current maturity and that the level of understanding is based more on approach and material rather than solely on level of maturity (Barnes). <>



Vygotsky (1896-1934)   Lev Vygotsky was a Russian psychologist that beileved that a child's social interaction with others played a huge role in their development. Vygotsky beileved that children learn through acitve play. Vygotsky is known for introducing scaffolding and the zone of proximal into classrooms. The zone of proximal is refered to as the distance between a child's independent learning abilities and the learning that is guided or from a more knowledgeable other. This can be from a teacher, peer, or from the child learning to problem solve. It is when the child is in the middle area that they learn.  need citation




PERSONAL INFORMATION: Jerome Bruner was born in 1915 in New York. Bruner was a dedicated psychologist and educator who had a large impact on education in the United States. In addition to many of the known concepts of cognitivism, Bruner strongly emphasized the role culture played in the learning process. Bruner believed that children are naturally curious and inherently sensitive to the cultural climate around them. The culture children live in affects who they believe they are, what they believe they can accomplish, and how they process newfound information. One controversial theory of Bruner's is that children are predisposed to become like their parents. His primary example is that children raised in middle class homes will become middle class citizens in the future. Without exposure to cultures existing in low socio-economic communities they will not have the ability to learn about and appreciate the elements inherent to those cultures (Kinnes).  <>


CONTRIBUTIONS TO EDUCATION: Bruner essentially designed a teaching strategy to help students (or any learners) understand and construct or expand upon their knowledge. The first principle is that in order for learning to take place the instruction must incorporate relevant material that draws the learrner in by way of interest. Next, instruction must be based on what the students is ready to learn. Essentially this means that the instruction should be based on the student and where they are at as far as attention span and their current knowledge base. A high school graduate will need to be presented material differently than a preschooler. The third and final principle instruction should be based on is that it should be designed to encourage higher level thinking. Content should leave room for expansion on what is being learned. This is essentially constructivism at its core (Kinnes).  <>


Principles/Underlying Concepts

  Learning is an active process and knowledge is subjective as each person creates personal meaning out of experiences and integrates new ideas into existing knowledge structures. In order for us to teach the children better, we ourselves must understand the way students are thinking when they become aware of the world and take for granted that their ideas are right. One key concept to constructivism is that "constructivism" in and of itself is the act of constructing meaning from one's environment. When students memorize rote facts they may be able to list the facts in order but not neccessarily with any amount of understanding. When students apply new found interests and knowledge to relevant, real-life scenarious they are demonstrating a constructed understanding of the knowledge. Children may make mistakes in how they construct or combine elements of information but this is all part of the learning process (Constructivism-A Learning Process).

Classroom Implications

Constructivist classrooms are diverse due to the fact that the teachers will take in the culture of the children. (what do you mean by "take in the culture"?) The teacher’s role is to build an environment that allows children to make choices, which is done through learning centers and therefore constructivist classrooms tend to be on the noisy side.  Constructivist classrooms believe (classrooms can't believe anything) that learning is an active process and the belief that knowledge is constructed by the child and not transferred from the teacher to the child. The teacher is a facilitator and observes the child and looks to guiding the child rather than enforce rules. Constructivist classrooms do more at promoting the children’s social, cognitive, and moral development than teacher-centered programs. (Devise & Kohlberg). (Don't see bibliography information for this source) Also the teachers in a constructivist class  refer to primary sources, raw data, and when it comes to providing experiences for the students instead of solely relying on anothers' set of data they use interactive materials.


Implications Related to Technology Use:

There are many ways technology has had implication on technology. For example, when the television were made the late 1950’s and 1960’s, and the printing press that produces our books for knowledge (fragment). As cited in Matusevich, Collins (1991) states, "So, inadvertently, technology seems to be coming down on the side of constructivist, who have been trying--unsuccessfully to date--to change the prevailing societal view of education" (p. 31). Matusevich believes this is why student are self-directed learners now. Matusevich also states that, according to Mann (1994) the new technology help authenticate knowledge for students to use real situation when learning and using constructivism in the classroom. Mann (1994) said that "educators have taken a more creative approach by allowing technology to play a role in the teaching and learning process." The article also gave examples of how  technology has been intergrated into lessons that were learnt. One of Mann's (1994) the examples elaborated on an experiment done on some high school to learn english as an second language, which indicates how techology has expanded in education.  This information is not very current--over 10 years old

Additional Reading:



Check MLA formatting again--see comments under references         



Traditional Classroom

Constructivist Classroom

Curriculum begins with the parts of the whole. Emphasizes basic skills. Curriculum emphasizes big concepts, beginning with the whole and expanding to include the parts.
Strict adherence to fixed curriculum is highly valued. Pursuit of student questions and interests is valued.
Materials are primarily textbooks and workbooks. Materials include primary sources of material and manipulative materials.
Learning is based on repetition. Learning is interactive, building on what the student already knows.
Teachers disseminate information to students; students are recipients of knowledge. Teachers have a dialogue with students, helping students construct their own knowledge.
Teacher's role is directive, rooted in authority. Teacher's role is interactive, rooted in negotiation.
Assessment is through testing, correct answers. Assessment includes student works, observations, and points of view, as well as tests. Process is as important as product.
Knowledge is seen as inert. Knowledge is seen as dynamic, ever changing with our experiences.
Students work primarily alone. Students work primarily in groups.




Butler-Bowdon, Tom. 50 Psychology Classics. Boston:  Nicholas Brealey Publishing. Boston, 2009. Print.


Collins, Allan. "The role of computer technology in restructuring schools." Phi Delta Kappan. 73.1 (1991): 28-36. Is this a print source?


On Purpose Associates. "Piaget." Funderstanding. 2008. Web. 1 Feb. 2011.<


Gordon, Ann Miles, and Kathryn Williams Browne. Begining and Beyond: Foundations in Early Childhood Education. Clifton Park: Delmar Learning, 2008. Print. 


KempKempoKempo. "Students Working Together." 27 Feb. 2008. YouTube.  Web. 30 Jan. 2011. <>


Kinnes, Tormrod. "Dr. Jerome Bruner." 2009. Web. 6 Feb. 2010. <>


"Social Development Theory (Vygotsky)." Learning Theories Knowledgebase. Learning Theories Knowledgebase. 2008. Web. 5 Feb. 2011. <> 


 Matusevich, Melissa N. School Reform: What Role can Technology Play in a Constructivist Setting. Public Schools. Montgomery County: Montgomery County, 1995. Not sure what these are in your citation. Is this a print document? Couldn't you find something more current?


Mann, Christine. "New Technologies and Gifted Education." Roeper Review 16.3 ( 1994): 172-176.    Capitalization errors. Check how to designate volume/issue information again. Is this a print document?


 "Constructivism- A Learning Process." n.d. Web. 4 Feb. 2011. <


"Piaget's Theory of Constructivism." TeAchnology.Teachnology, Inc. 2011. Web. 1 Feb. 2011.

<>  just a URL--no bibliographic information provided at all. Check the Valencia College link for how to cite a YouTube video.Grr


 "The Theories of Jean Piaget." TeAchnology. 2011. Teachnology, Inc. 13 Feb. 2011.<>



Barnes, C. George. "Jean Piaget." n.d. Personality Theories. C. George Barnes. 13 Feb. 2011.





several of these references are definitely not MLA formatted--check out the Youtube video. Look at spacing and italics. The URLs need to be in <> Need to indicate whether print or web. if no date is provided, the abbreviation is n.d. (lower case). Titles of websites are italicized.