What Is Constructivism in Education?

According to constructivism, it’s important for students to generate their own knowledge and be active parts of the process, while the teacher is only a guide.
What Is Constructivism in Education?

Last update: 07 September, 2021

Constructivism in education claims that the student is the active generator of their learning after interacting with the knowledge that they have to acquire. In constructivism, the student is the main player and teachers become secondary, even if they’re a key part of the learning process.

New information is integrated into previous experiences and knowledge. It’s the experiences that create increasingly complex mental frameworks, thanks to two processes: Assimilation and accommodation.

Do you want to know what constructivism in education is based on, what its objectives and its principles are? Keep reading to learn more.

Constructivism in education

The application of constructivism in education aims to provide students with materials, tools, and resources necessary for developing their own learning. This should always happen under the guidance and supervision of the teacher, during class.

Constructivism understands learning as an active, progressive, autonomous, and dynamic process of construction. What’s important here is the interaction with the knowledge, not its passive assimilation.

Teacher in class with her students applying constructivism in education.

Mental frameworks play an important role. These are the experiences and the environment with which we interact and which we store in order to later acquire and adapt new knowledge through the process of assimilation.

Principles of constructivism in education

Some authors who’ve contributed to this area with theories and knowledge are Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner, David Paul Ausubel, Joyce Seitzinger, and Lev S. Vigotsky. Even if none of them claimed to be a constructivist, their theories and principles are representative of this paradigm.

Let’s now detail the principles of constructivism in education:

  1. The student, in an active way, is the one who elaborates their knowledge through interaction with what they’re going to study.
  2. The context triggers the construction of learning.
  3. Newly acquired knowledge takes on meaning when linked to previous knowledge.
  4. Learning means continuous action, analysis, and reflection regarding each situation.
  5. The professor, teacher, or pedagogue only facilitates learning. Therefore, it’s the student who’s in charge of constructing it.
  6. Knowledge is internal to each person. Therefore, students are the ones who construct it, based on their experiences and previous knowledge.
  7. Each learner has their own internal knowledge and reorganizes their internal experience based on this knowledge.
  8. Previous knowledge and experience facilitate the development of the cognitive structure.
  9. What’s important is orientation during the learning process and not instructions that try to program it.
  10. With experiences, mental schemas of knowledge are constructed and these change with the child’s experience.

Factors involved in the learning process of constructivism

According to constructivism, there are two main factors determining the learning process. They’re not the only ones, but they’re the most important.

  • Educational influence. The classroom has to be an environment that encourages learning and ensures that there’s a climate of cooperation motivating for the student.
  • Psychological factors. The knowledge to be acquired must be meaningful and valuable so that it can be incorporated into the cognitive structure.

The objectives of constructivism in education

  1. The need to use examples in order to achieve learning.
  2. Searching for and provide solutions to real problems and situations.
  3. Moreover, encouraging the process of learning how to learn.
  4. Making learning more dynamic, making students participate actively and directly.
  5. Stimulating and motivating the development, independence, and autonomy of students so that they take charge of their learning with interest.
  6. Identifying, interpreting, classifying, and relating the information that may be important for solving the problems that arise.
  7. Carrying out group activities in order to develop and stimulate negotiation and participation with other students.
  8. Being able to distinguish theory from reality.
  9. Creating a transparent learning environment, adapting the contents and the learning process so that it’s constant and fluid.
Teacher teaching her students.

How should the educational environment based on constructivism be like?

Learning environments must favor the acquisition of knowledge in an autonomous way and be motivating and interesting for students. Some aspects to take into account in creating the appropriate environment are the following:

  • The environment has to encourage students to come in contact with diverse representations of reality.
  • These representations, moreover, should avoid simplifications and make them as real as possible.
  • Meaningful activities should take precedence over the imposition of content.
  • Educators need to create environments in which interaction takes place in order to solve and provide solutions to problems without the need for instructions.
  • The environment should stimulate reflection and analysis based on experience.
  • Additionally, in constructivist environments, contents and contexts must be oriented towards building knowledge.
  • Collaboration and negotiation are encouraged, and the construction of knowledge is then stimulated. Therefore, it helps to prevent competition for individual recognition.

In short, constructivism in education can be an effective tool for students to acquire knowledge autonomously, as they’re the ones who have to initiate their learning on their own.

To this end, we must provide the classroom environment with tools, materials, and resources so that students can become constructors of their knowledge, always guided by a teacher.

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  • Carretero, M. (2000). Constructivismo y educación. Editorial Progreso.
  • Serrano González-Tejero, J. M., & Pons Parra, R. M. (2011). El constructivismo hoy: enfoques constructivistas en educación. Revista electrónica de investigación educativa, 13(1), 1-27. http://www.scielo.org.mx/scielo.php?pid=S1607-40412011000100001&script=sci_arttext