Constructivism – a simple explanation

I have asked for and received permission to reprint The Institute for Learning Centered Education’s weekly newsletter. Don Mesbibov, the Director of the Institute is a brilliant educator who works to develop teachers and administrators that will transform teaching and learning. Interestingly enough, Don comes at this through pedagogy, not technology. I find his newsletter informative and inspiring and a welcome reminder that the educational changes we hope for are primarily changes in pedagogy.

I hope you enjoy these posts from a pioneer in the field of constructivism.


Newsletter Edition Volume 9 Issue 25

Whether you are a parent, teacher, administrator or staff developer, the following applies:

How do you know whether your approach to conveying information, teaching a concept or helping someone learn a skill is based on constructivist theory?

Which of these two categories best fits your approach:

  1. I think of ways I can get my points across. I know what I want people to learn from me and I try to come up with ways to get my knowledge from me to them.
  2. I try to create an activity, project or some kind of experience so that I can set people to work as soon as possible and then teach what I want them to know and understand by offering suggestions as they work.

Do you doubt that the second category is more effective for teaching? Think about your own children. Don’t you find dozens of opportunities a day to point out what you want them to know while they are actively engaged in something they either want to do or see the need for?

If you’ve ever said,

“I’ve told you a thousand times . . . .”

then you realize that what you say has little meaning except if it’s said while someone is struggling with something they are anxious to accomplish.

Because of the frequency and intensity of our relationship with our children, opportunities constantly arise for us to coach while they are engaged. In a classroom setting the teacher needs to create the activities that will motivate students to engage so that teachable moments can emerge like popcorn snapping to life in a popcorn machine.

You don’t get many teachable moments while you are talking and someone else is listening. Teachable moments abound when people are engaged in something they are not completely sure how to accomplish.


Please feel free to forward this message to a friend or colleague. If you know someone who would like to be put on the list, please send a message to Don Mesibov at Requests to be dropped from this list will also be honored. Copyright (c) 2008, Institute for Learning Centered Education. All rights reserved.

The Institute is currently registering teams for the 2008 summer constructivist conference, July 21-25, at St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York. Don’t miss the opportunity for this unique conference that models the constructivist behaviors that teachers are using increasingly in the classroom. Check out the website of The Institute for Learning Centered Education:
or, e-mail a request for information.


2 thoughts on “Constructivism – a simple explanation

  1. Great post! My class and I are right in the middle of some of this … creating and building eco friendly bird houses. We have had a few moments – teachable – fabulous – inspiring.

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