Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Constructivism in Practice

Constructivism in Practice

Constructivist and Constructionist are two learning theories that help students learn in an effective manner. The article Constructionism, Learning by design and Project Based Learning gives an excellent explanation of the comparison between Constructionism and Constructivism. It states that, “Constructionism (Papert, 1993) is both a theory of learning and a strategy for education. It builds on the "Constructivist" theories of Jean Piaget, asserting that knowledge is not simply transmitted from teacher to student, but actively constructed in the mind of the learner.” (Seungyeon Han and Kakali Bhattacharya). The difference between the two is that Constructivism “expresses the theory that knowledge is built by the learner, not supplied by the teacher” while Constructionism “expresses the further idea that happens especially felicitously when the learner is engaged in the construction of something external or at least sharable" (Papert, 1991, p.3).

            The instructional strategies that are discussed this week talk about Project Based Learning (PBL), Learning by Design (LBD), and Problem Based Learning. All of these learning strategies are tools for Constructivism and Constructionism and they differ only in a few aspects. The basic criteria for these learning strategies are that in this “learning environment, the instructor acts as a facilitator and guides the learners along their paths of learning. Learners are assigned tasks in which they must implement particular instructional goals. They investigate, create, and solve problems” (Seungyeon Han, et al).

            In the book, Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, the authors talk about the importance of Generating and Testing Hypotheses. These techniques are associated with Constructivism, and the book states that “ when students Generate and Test Hypotheses, they are engaging in complex mental processes, applying content knowledge like facts and vocabulary, and enhancing their overall understanding of the content” (Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. p.202). This chapter provides a wealth of information on how teachers can implement these learning strategies of Constructivism in their lessons. Using technology to help students work on their projects can be very rewarding for both teachers and students. “Technology can play a vital role in generating and testing hypotheses because new developments in probeware and interactive applets allow students to spend more time interpreting the data than generating the data” (Pitler, H. et al. p. 203). The authors suggest six tasks (systems analysis, problem solving, historical investigation, invention, experimental inquiry, and decision-making) that can help students Generate and Test Hypotheses. They recommend spreadsheet software, data collection tools, and web resources as excellent facilitators for these six tasks. Of these three suggestions, the one I found most useful for my third graders was the web resources site called ExploreLearning ( This is an interactive website that involves critical thinking, collaboration, and communication among students. These three criteria are important for Project Based Learning and help students to learn their concepts better. I also did a lesson on Graphing skills with my students and they loved it ( I took my students to the computer lab, and each student experienced graph making skills first by themselves, and then with a partner. By the end of the lesson, they were conversant with bar, line, and pie graphs. This shows that Constructionism and Constructivism can certainly be enhanced by the use of technology.

          After this week’s reading I truly believe that students learn better when their learning is Project Based and Problem Based. In my classroom, I implement many interactive lessons on the smart board, along with visual representations of videos before teaching a lesson. However, I think I do very little Project Based Learning (PBL) for my students. I have plans to implement the strategies for a Constructivist classroom in the near future. “A constructivist classroom is one that concentrates on students forming his or her ideas, concepts, and conclusions while encouraging a more student-centered approach to education. Whereas in a traditional, didactic classroom, a teacher may simply instruct and leave little time for classroom discussion; in comparison, a constructivist classroom would expect and reinforce a more egalitarian setting where students construct or co-construct their knowledge and focus on their learning process rather than learning products. When the teacher is in the role of a facilitator and students are actively engaged, then constructivist learning is being promoted within the classroom” (WikiBooks).
Papert, S. (1993). The Children's machine: rethinking school in the age of the computer. New York: Basic Books.
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Seungyeon Han and Kakali Bhattacharya: Constructionism, Learning by design and Project Based Learning: Retrieved on January 26, 2011 from,_Learning_by_Design,_and_Project_Based_Learning
WikiBooks: The Practice of Learning Theories/Constructivism: Retrieved on January 26, 2011 from


  1. Hi Preeti,
    I always enjoy your postings and look forward to them.
    I love your idea of letting students explore graphs--I find that when students interact with something in a hands-on context, they take away so much more as a result of this learning experience.
    One of my favorite projects related to graphing is to have students collect data from their classmates and then graph the data. The real world data is exciting to work with--and as the data set is something they are very knowledgeable about, they can more easily draw on critical thinking skills in terms of drawing inferences.

    Thank you for posting.


  2. Response to Dr. Krauss,

    When I taught computers, I used the software on graphing by Tom Snyder, and all my students loved it. They would first take a survey of their classmates on how many kinds of pets each student had, and then use the software to insert that information on a graph. The students loved the visual representation of their research.

  3. Hi Preeti,
    You always have such good post. Your post was a very good read. I agree with you when you stated that students learn better from problem based and project based activities. Both these give students an opportunity to become actively engaged. When students are actively engaged they beginning to figure out how to create or build something constructing their own meaning and experiences. Nice Post!!