Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Constructivism and Constructionism

Constructivism and constructionism are two learning theories. Constructivism, or the V word, has to do with the schematics of learning. When we learn, our mind groups similar ideas together based on previous knowledge (Laureate Education Inc., 2011). Constructionism, or the N word, uses building or creating as a vehicle for meaningful learning (Laureate Education Inc., 2011).

There are many ways to use these learning theories in the classroom. Two ways are through generating and testing hypothesis, and creating project based lessons. When students generate hypothesis with careful reasoning it gives proof that students are critically thinking (Pitler, Hubbell, & Kuhn, 2012). Creating hypothesis takes previously learned knowledge and uses it to inductively reason. This is an example of constructivism. Students can test and chart their findings compared to the hypothesis and present it in a digital way; this is example of constructionism. There are so many ways to incorporate technology when generating and testing hypothesis. Excel spreadsheets, phone apps, and simulation software can be useful tools (Pitler el at., 2012). Project based learning is closely tied to problem based learning. When a real world problem is introduced to students they must use higher level thinking skills to solve this problem (Orey, 2001). These lessons are tied to large-scale projects that often culminate in a presentation of student findings. Project based learning is an example of constructionism. When solving a big-picture problem, there are many smaller problems that must be figured out. The student guides the learning activities. This quest of knowledge results in meaningful learning opportunities.  

Throughout the week, I thought of the proverb “Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand”. I believe the proverb sums up the idea of constructionism.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program seven: Constructionist and constructivist learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., & Kuhn, M. (2012). Using technology with classroom instruction that works (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


  1. Jen,
    Do you currently do any Project Based Learning in your classroom? I'd love to hear some ideas if you have any.

  2. Jen,

    I love the proverb that you added at the end of your post. I also agree that is sums up the constructionist learning theory perfectly. I also realized this week that us art teachers consistently use the constructionist learning theory because we are constantly having students create projects and artifacts. I also discovered that I should use generating and testing hypotheses more in my classroom. Maybe having the children ask a question and make a prediction before beginning a project and then testing and seeing if their prediction was true or not. Just some ideas I was thinking of using. I would love to hear if you had any!


    1. Angel,
      I love the idea of making predictions with your students. You could incorporate this prediction/reflection exercise in to a journal activity. My school loved when I require students to write more!

      I feel like so much of the artistic process is related to the scientific process. We just have to make a point to label the steps we take as artists!


  3. Jen,
    I agree with Angel. I love this quote and I feel it does sum up what constructionism means. What does PBL look like in your classroom? My school is pumping it up but I do not see a lot of examples. The Learning By Design model seems to come more naturally to me. PBL takes LOTS of planning and with some standards is difficult.
    I would love to know how you use PBL or some challenges you have overcome when it comes to PBL.

    1. Jessie,

      When I use PBL in my classroom it is usually focused around design. You are right, it takes a lot of planning to create a PBL style lesson. When I use PBL in my classroom it is usually centered around design. It is easy to relate the graphic design world to my high school students live in. They are consumers of media, cool product packaging, and trendy businesses. I like to have verity in my lessons throughout the semester, so I only facilitate one-two PBL lessons every course (half the school year).
      At my school poor attendance is a big issue. My students get so frustrated when they work in groups over a long period of time. The students will good attendance feel like they are doing all of the work. I have developed rubrics for group projects that take attendance into account.

      My school does not require PBL lessons, but encourage group work.

  4. Jen
    Like everyone else that has commented on your post, I love the Proverbs quote at the end of your post. Letting the kids create things and be involved does wonder for their ability to learn the material. I use a great deal of project based learning in my class. Teaching in the business and Finance area, there are so many hands on things that we can do. I really feel like these hands on real-world projects help my kids understand way more than if I stand there and lecture to them the entire time. It also helps keep them engaged in the learning if they know they are working on projects that will actually help them in the future.