Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Constructionism Learning Theory

Dr. Orey defines constructivism as “a theory of knowledge stating that each individual actively constructs his/her own meaning” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).  He then defines constructionism as “a theory of learning that states people learn best when they build an external artifact or something they can share with others” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).  He continues to talk about how the building blocks for constructionism are: assimilation, accommodation, equilibration, and schema. Assimilation and accommodation is what is going on in the individual learners mind, as they are building things.  Dr. Orey points out that constructionism is what we need to be focused on in education.  Students should be actively engaged in creating a product (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).  “Instruction is effective when the learners can relate personally and take something away from it” (Orey, 2001, p. 3).  It boils down to that students should be engaged in hands on activities to enhance their learning.

In the text, Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, the authors talk about how the instructional strategy of “Generating and Testing Hypotheses” engage students in complex mental processes and enhances the overall understanding of the content (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, Malenoski, 2007).  They continue to talk about six tasks that teachers can use to help students with this instructional strategy.  The six tasks are:
1.       Systems Analysis – Students study the parts of a system and make predictions about what would change if one or more parts were altered.
2.      Problem Solving – Students look at various solutions to solve a problem.
3.      Historical Investigation – Students construct hypotheses about historical events.
4.      Invention – Students examine a need and then work to create a solution.
5.      Experimental Inquiry – Students observe a phenomenon, make a hypothesis, and set up an experiment to test their prediction.
6.      Decision Making – Students define criteria and apply weight to the various criteria to make a sensible decision.
 (Pitler et al., 2007, p. 203).
 All of these tasks definitely fit into the constructionism theory of learning.  They each have the students actively engaged and creating an artifact to demonstrate what they have learned.  They also all fit into another constructionism component, Learning by Design.  The common goals of Learning By Design are: 1) extracting essential concepts and skills from examples of experiences 2) engaging learners in learning 3) encouraging question posing, and 4) confronting conceptions and misconceptions (Orey, 2001, p. 6).

            I have used various different hands on activities in my classroom that have my students creating a final product.  Examples of artifacts that I have had my students engaged in are Power Point slide shows, travel brochures, posters (even technology based posters using, videos, voice threads, time lines, comic strips, etc.  From experience, I have seen my students motivated and engaged in their own learning when working on their creations.  Dr. Orey says, that “Learners don’t get ideas; they create ideas” (Orey, 2001, p. 4).    


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., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


  1. I do not have much experience with providing opportunities for students to participate in activities such as creating products. My first attempt at having students create or build something was the spring semester of last school year. It was a learning experience for all including myself.

    Dr. Michael Orey explained equilibrium as one of the building blocks of Constructionism in this week's video resource (Laureate Educational Inc., 2011). When students go through the process of creating a final product they experience "disequilibrium" requiring either assimilation or accommodation to occur to bring them back to equilibrium.

    Creating a student-centered learning environment where students are engaged and learning math is my goal. Having students create final products accomplishes this goal. I need to work on setting clear and defined goals with well-defined expectations in rubrics.

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

  2. I had not had a lot of experience with having my students engaged in product making either until about two years ago. When my family moved to Missouri and I was hired at a different school that changed. The school I am currently at is project and technology oriented. I have learned a lot the last two years and it really has improved the instruction in my classroom. My students are engaged and learn so much more. I enjoy it more too. It is more work for me but it benefits my students and teaches them 21st century skills that will prepare them to be productive citizens of society. It is student centered and the students are held accountable for their own learning-with my guidance of course.

    Using rubrics not only helps to set the expectations for your students but it makes the job of grading the projects run smoother and more consistent.