If School Elements - 103 – Constructivism

This learning theory has been around for a good while, and is something taught as a foundational theory in teacher’s colleges around the world. However, few people take the time to realize the powerful impact this learning theory has when applied in full. 

The theory basically states that all knowledge is a construct created by the learner, and that in order to build this construct one needs to be able to build upon past learning and grow the idea through direct experience. In other words, you cannot simply tell a learner the outcome, but instead need to create a context for that learning so they may construct the learning for themselves. 

What does that mean to our learning processes? Well, if we are to truly learn something, we need a context to construct the understanding. In other words, we need a context that is real life and visible in order for the learning to make sense. 

Some classes, such as Science have naturally built in elements which allow for this to happen, with activities such as labs. Other classes, such as Maths, are increasingly being designed with a constructivist approach in mind. 


The Fundamentals:

This learning theory has been around for a long time. Piaget and the dawn of developmental psychology have discussed constructivism, and it has evolved through the works of Vygotsky and Seymour Papert. Here are some essential items:  

  • learning happens through a series of questions, experiences and reflections
  • A teacher who is in the ZOPED (Zone of Proximal Development) has an easier time explaining the concept then one who is more advanced.
  • Each individual must construct their own concept of knowledge, which cannot be transferred without an agent experiencing the same things. 

The role of the teacher is to create conditions for invention rather than to provide ready made knowledge

Seymour Papert