Constructivism learning theory

originally posted on April 16, 2015

Constructivism “is the label given to a set of theories about learning which fall somewhere between cognitive and humanistic views.”; “the learner is much more actively involved in a joint enterprise with the teacher of creating (“constructing”) new meaning”.


“Mastery of fundamental ideas of a field involves not only the grasping of general principles, but also the development of an attitude toward learning and inquiry, toward guessing and hunches, toward the possibility of solving problems on one’s own (Bruner,1963).”  Emphasis is on discovery and trial and error. Any subject can be taught at any stage of development. Learning should develop skills to serve us in the future(Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p.14-15).

“Constructivism is foundational to understanding much of adult learning theory and practice…aspects of constructivism, especially the social constructions of knowledge are central to self-directed learning, transformational learning, experiential learning, reflective practice, situated cognition, and communities of practice” (Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p. 37).

Key concepts relating to eLearning: learners will be actively involved; learners will build on their own knowledge. The role of the learner is to actively participate in their own education; play an active role in their own learning; reflect on their experiences; accommodate and assimilate new information with their new understanding.

( The learners role can be manifested within online learning by participation in discussion groups, research, self-reflection, self-assessment, active enquiry, management of own learning activities.

The role of the constructivist instructor is to act as a guide. The instructor needs to consider the knowledge and experiences of students; provide the necessary resources for students; provide opportunities for students to learn from each other.  Programs should be flexible to permit development along lines of student enquiry; create situations where the students feel safe questioning and reflecting on their own processes; present authentic tasks; and support collaboration in constructing knowledge. ( “The instructor’s roles were coaching, guiding, mentoring, acknowledging, providing feedback, and assessing student learning.” ( Encourage team working and collaboration, promote discussion, provide opportunities for peer learning, show students’ examples of good practice, have students’ self and peer-assess. (

Examples: Forums – these promote discussion and peer learning. For example, a forum on procedures within the medical office would be a good way for students to share ideas and learn from each other.

Case studies – real-life scenarios can be presented in case studies, these foster reflection on what the student might do, and would be a form of authentic assessment.

Partner or group projects – for example, students can work together investigating a disease, or medical tests. This would promote student enquiry, discovery and learning from each other.



Atherton, J. S. (2013). Learning and Teaching; Constructivism in learning.Retrieved from

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Koohang,A., Riley, L., Smith,T. and  Schreurs, J.  (2009). E-learning and Constructivism: From theory to application. Retrieved from

Merriam, S.B. & Bierema, L.L. (2014). Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice (First edition). United States of America: Jossey-Bass

University College Dublin (n.d.) Education Theory – Constructivism and Social Constructivism in the Classroom. Retrieved from


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