What is Constructivism?

Constructivism is a theory of educational psychology-pedagogy which focuses on how learners construct new knowledge, building on the foundations of what they’ve learned so far. Formulated by Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, constructivism studies how learners build knowledge out of previous experience and from experiences in the classroom. Constructivist models take into account the internal cognitive processes which build knowledge, as well as the social circumstances which create knowledge.

Constructivism in Education

Constructivism has grown to be a very influential theory in education, and is the foundation that many curricula are built on. Constructivist educators prioritize learners’ individual path to understanding through reflection on and analysis of new information. Reflections, discussions, group projects, and seminars help learners methodically develop their knowledge over the course of the class.

A common model for implementing constructivism in the classroom is the Five “E” Model, a five stage model for teaching:

  • Engage: The educator introduces students to the topic and asks them questions, prompts discussions between peers, and encourages reflection in order to capture students’ attention.
  • Explore: Through individual study or group collaboration students dive into the topic more deeply, as the teacher steps back to act as a facilitator rather than leading the class directly.
  • Explain: At this stage, learners communicate what they’ve learned to peers and/or the instructor. By translating experience into a communicable explanation, learners strengthen and deepen their knowledge.
  • Elaborate: Students expand on their knowledge by connecting new concepts to ones they’re familiar with. Making connections in this way can lead students down other paths of inquiry which can expand their understanding even further.
  • Evaluate: Through formal or informal assessments, teachers test how much knowledge has been gained, and the depth of their students’ understanding. This is an ongoing process, where some assessments may guide further instruction or influence the design of further assessments.

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