What is constructivist learning theory?

Posted by Greten on 11 Jan 2023 under Terms, Theories

Constructivism is a learning theory stating that learning occurs when learners actively create their own knowledge and understanding through their experiences and interactions. Another word for constructivism is constructivist theory; this entry will use these two words interchangeably.

According to this theory, people actively seek knowledge and new experiences and create their own knowledge by drawing connections between what they already know and what they are learning. Constructivism emphasizes active learning, hands-on learning, and problem-solving, with the teacher serving as a facilitator rather than a source of knowledge.

Pieces of toy blocks forming two towers or buildings, with four pieces scattered.

In an earlier post about the generation process in the AGES model, I covered how new knowledge tends to stick to long-term memory when associated with existing knowledge. The focus of that post is the processes inside the brain. Meanwhile, this entry focuses on the interaction among the learners, their teachers or facilitators, and the environment that enables the learning process.

Constructivism is an active learning

SIlhouette of a head with several gears, a bulb, and a cloud inside.According to constructivism, learners are active creators of meaning rather than passive receivers of knowledge. Learning is an ongoing discovery process rather than the accumulation of existing information. People actively seek out knowledge and experiences and create their own knowledge by drawing connections between what they already know and what they are learning.

This deliberate practice of relating new information to existing knowledge helps learners develop a deeper comprehension of the subject matter.

Your role as a teacher in a constructivist learning environment is that of a facilitator to provide opportunities for active learning rather than just imparting information. You assist learners in connecting new information and their past knowledge and guiding them through their active discovery process.

Constructivism is both individualized and social learning

The constructivist theory of learning focuses on the social and individualized nature of learning.

On the one hand, learning is personalized since every learner builds their own worldview based on their particular experiences and viewpoints. Your responsibility as a teacher is to acknowledge and capitalize on the diversity of the backgrounds, experiences, and prior knowledge that learners bring to the classroom.

The constructivist method acknowledges that each learner enters the classroom with a distinct combination of experiences and background information and that each person's learning process is individual and personal. Therefore, it encourages learners to express their ideas and opinions with the class and values the many experiences and viewpoints each learner brings to the classroom.

A college or graduate student conducting chemistry experiment is a form of active learning.

Giving learners a chance to explore and acquire new ideas and concepts at their own pace and in a way that is meaningful to them is crucial.

On the other hand, learning is also social because it entails interaction and teamwork.

The social constructivism theory asserts that knowledge is created by individuals within social and cultural contexts and that learning is a shared activity in communities and cultures. Thus, it enables learners to interact and work together to build their understanding of the subject matter by exchanging ideas and thoughts with their classmates.

A demonstration of teamwork where two team members use themselves as bridge so the third member can reach the goal.

Learners are urged to cooperate and create a collective understanding of the subject matter. You must foster an atmosphere where learners feel safe taking chances, and making mistakes. Instead of memorizing facts and information, this approach enables pupils to investigate and learn about new ideas and concepts.

This approach also enables learners to share knowledge and get new insights into the subject matter. Additionally, it allows learners to consider their own thinking in light of others, deepening their understanding.

Constructivism is applied learning

Constructivism uses real-world problems and scenarios in the classroom. Instead of just explaining a subject to pupils, teachers present them with real-world challenges and circumstances that force them to use what they have learned. This approach fosters critical thinking abilities in kids. In addition, it helps them realize the value and significance of what they are learning.

Constructivism recommends the use of scenarios and real-world issues in the classroom to assist learners in building their conceptual grasp of the material. Your role is to present learners with real-world problems and circumstances pertinent to their lives and experiences rather than just explaining concepts in a theoretical or abstract way.

Using this approach, learners can better understand the significance and relevance of what they are learning and how it links to their lives and the wider world. Moreover, because of this approach, they can interact with the material in a more profound and meaningful way. This also enables them to understand the nuanced nature and complexity of real-world problems and the value of considering various viewpoints.

For instance, you could present pupils with a real-world issue, such as a neighboring small business having financial difficulties, rather than just educating them about economic principles. Then, you can expect the learners to use the economic theories they have learned to examine the situation, pinpoint the issue, and develop solutions.

Disadvantages of constructivism

Although the constructivist approach to learning has several advantages, there are also some drawbacks to consider.

The constructivist approach uses more time and resources. It frequently requires more planning, preparation, and facilitation, which involves using more materials, tools, and technology, which can be expensive. Telling students what they need to know is way faster than guiding them to reach a particular conclusion.

Constructivism limits the role of the teachers. In a constructivist approach, the teacher adopts the position of a facilitator, which means they have less influence over the learners' learning process. As a result, it may be challenging to guarantee that all pupils achieve the necessary learning outcomes.

The motivations of learners may be of different levels. Constructivist methods frequently require learners to be more self-directed and driven to study. As a result, it can be difficult for learners who are not accustomed to these methods.

Constructivism is not applicable to all subject areas. Constructivist approaches might better suit some disciplines, such as the social sciences and STEM. However, they might be less effective for subjects requiring more rote memorization and knowledge recall.

The evaluation of learning is challenging in the constructivist approach since learning is frequently a process rather than a finished good. Therefore, it is more challenging to gauge development and comprehension in the same way as conventional techniques.

It's crucial to remember that constructivism is only one learning strategy and that not all learners or learning contexts will benefit from it.
Therefore, before selecting this strategy, it's vital to consider the objectives, available resources, and learners' needs.

Applying constructivism to elearning

Constructivism can be incorporated into elearning in many ways.

Allow learners to actively participate in the learning process and build their understanding by including interactive activities, simulations, and games in elearning platforms. You can design these activities to promote problem-solving and critical thinking.

Encourage collaboration among the learners. An essential component of constructivism is the sharing of knowledge and ideas. Thus, it would help if you set up online discussion boards, chats, and videoconferences to allow learners to interact. You can also instruct them to construct group projects to enable them to share ideas and insights.

Use real-world problems and situations as examples. Elearning platforms can include examples pertinent to the learners' lives and experiences, allowing them to apply their knowledge to actual circumstances. Learners can see the value and relevance of what they are learning and improve their critical thinking abilities.

An online class seen in a laptop screen, where a teacher conducts geometry class.

Learning experiences can be customized using adaptive technology on elearning platforms according to the learner's level of understanding.

You should provide feedback to learners. Constructivist learning relies heavily on feedback. Therefore, you can create formative tests and exercises that provide learners quick feedback. The feedback can guide them to identify areas for improvement.

Encourage learners to reflect on their learning experiences and consider how they come to their understanding by including reflecting activities or journals in elearning platforms.

Allow learners to learn at their own pace and on their own schedule with the help of elearning platforms.


Constructivism is a learning theory that encourages learners to build their understanding of the subject via active and engaged learning. It strongly emphasizes that understanding and knowledge are constructed via experiences, interactions, and reflection. It considers the past knowledge of the learner; promotes teamwork and experiential, hands-on learning; and regards the instructor as a facilitator of the learning process.

According to constructivism, learning is a social and individual process. It encourages learners to discuss their ideas and opinions with their peers and values the many experiences and viewpoints each learner brings to the classroom.

Constructivism recommends using real-world situations and challenges in the classroom to engage learners in active, hands-on learning and problem-solving. This helps develop critical thinking abilities, including problem-solving, reasoning, and decision-making, and assists learners in recognizing the value and significance of their learning. This method makes learning more meaningful, and learners can see how knowledge is used in the real world.

While it can effectively promote more profound understanding, there are also some drawbacks. These drawbacks include the time required, the need for more resources, the lack of instructor control, and the challenge of evaluating learning. Additionally, it may not be effective for all subjects or for students who are less motivated to learn.

When applying constructivism to elearning, you must provide opportunities for active learning, collaboration, and the use of real-world scenarios. You can also personalize the learning experience, provide feedback, and facilitate reflection.


Last updated on 11 Jan 2023.

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