Introducing Constructivism in Education Part 1

What is Constructivism?

Constructivism is an approach to learning based on the premise that cognition, or learning, is the result of mental construction. It’s an active process in which learners construct new ideas, skills and behaviours based upon their prior and current knowledge, behaviour and skill assets.

A Model of Constructivism

A Context for Constructivism

In her comprehensive reference text Psychology of learning for instruction, Marcy Driscoll describes Constructivism as having

…multiple roots in psychology and philosophy, among which are the cognitive and developmental perspectives of Piaget, the interactional and cultural emphases of Vygotsky and Bruner, the contextual nature of learning, the active learning of Dewey, the epistemological discussions of von Glasersfeld and the paradigm and scientific revolutions of Thomas Kuhn.

(1994, p.375)

From a Constructivist perspective, a learner transforms information, constructs knowledge, and makes decisions based upon extant cognitive structures or mental models. These cognitive structures – what Roger Schank calls “scripts” in his Dynamic Memory Model (1982) – provide meaning and organisation to experiences and allow the individual to go “beyond the information given” (Bruner, 1974). Even though there are numerous interpretations of constructivism, several central concepts inhabit all constructivist theories.

Cunningham and Duffy (1996) identified two major similarities that are the foundation of all constructivist thought. They are that “learning is an active process of constructing rather than acquiring knowledge” and “instruction is a process of supporting that construction rather that communicating knowledge” (1996, p.172).

Next: The Cognitive Revolution


Bruner, J. S. (1974) Going Beyond the Information Given. New York: Norton.

Cunningham, D. J. & Duffy, T. M. (1996) Constructivism: Implications for the design and delivery of instruction. IN: Jonassen. D. H. (Ed.), Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology (pp. 170- 198). New York: Simon & Shuster Macmillan.

Driscoll, M. P. (1994). Psychology of learning for instruction. Boston, MA. Allyn & Bacon.

Schank, R. (1982) Dynamic Memory: A Theory of Reminding and Learning in Computers and People. Cambridge University Press.