Teaching Organizational Learning, Part 2 – Conditions for learning

As discussed in a previous post, Driscoll (1994, pp.382-3) outlines five conditions for learning (and organizational learning). Very much like the multiple approaches and interpretations that exist in constructivism, a number of conditions for learning must be met for the approach to be implemented. The conditions are:

  1. Providing complex learning environments that incorporate authentic activity. Constructivists argue that learners should learn to solve the types of complex problem they will face in real life. Learning how to do this is difficult unless complex and authentic learning environments are available to the learners.
  2. Providing for social negotiation as an integral part of learning. Bruner (1986) explains that learning is a cultural interchange between group members. Collaboration creates an opportunity for learners to share their understandings with others and to have others do the same with them. This provides multiple perspectives to each learner, and this negotiation process between peers should lead to enhanced understanding.
  3. Support multiple perspectives and the use of multiple modes of representation. Because learning skills, behaviors and knowledge can be diverse and complex, constructivists believe that to achieve complete understanding the learner must examine the material from multiple perspectives. If they are not supported in this endeavor, the learner will achieve only a partial understanding of the material. Multiple modes of representation allow the learner to view the same content through different sensory modes.
  4. Nurture reflexivity. Duffy and Cunningham (1996) characterize reflexivity as “the ability of students to be aware of their own role in the knowledge construction process.” (p.172). We can also describe this as the learner ‘taking ownership’ of their own thinking and learning processes. Driscoll (1994) assets that reflexivity and by extension critical thinking are central attributes in the constructivist methodology, as it enables learners to understand how and why cognition creates meaning. This enables learners to attain goals such as reasoning, understanding multiple perspectives, and expressing and defending their own beliefs.
  5. The last condition Driscoll describes is to “emphasize student-centred instruction.” Bruner (1966) calls this “discovery learning”. By obtaining knowledge by themselves, learners select and transform information, construct knowledge, and make decisions in the context of a cognitive structure that provides meaning and organization to experiences and allows the individual to “go beyond the information given”. This enables students to actively engage in determining what and how they will study or gain understanding.

These principles and conditions for learning position the constructivist approach as an appropriate orientation for learning sans frontiers; using technologies like the Internet, websites and virtual learning environments, applying collaborative learning, problem-based learning and goal-based mechanisms, making Open Source Software and Course- and Content Management Systems accessible to learners, and using e-learning applications like online conferencing and collaboration tools could be the foundation for these multiple constructivist conditions for learning. (Duffy & Cunningham 1996, Driscoll 1994, Schank 1994)

These characteristics provide an appropriate framework for knowledge workers to learn (and for the learning intervention), given that

  1. their ongoing development is based in the context of already-established cognitive schemata (from the learners’ perspective)
  2. the knowledge and skills are applied to solve real-world problems
  3. and their expertise (behaviors) are typically used in collaboration with their peers to enhance the performance of organizations.




Bruner, J. S. (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

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

Duffy, T. M. & Cunningham, D. J. (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.

Schank, R. (1994) Active Learning Through Multimedia, IEEE Multimedia, 1(1), pp.69-78.