Constructivism Defined

Note from Pete:
I found these definitions of constructivist learning posted in Don Mesibov’s, Institute for Learning Centered Education newsletter, very helpful in expanding my understanding of this learning theory.

Newsletter Edition Volume 9, Issue 29

Four of the 43 teams registered for our summer constructivist conference that begins July 21 are from Milwaukee. They are being coordinated by Anne Nordholm who has been working under a grant provided by TALC New Vision which receives financial assistance from the Gates Foundation. According to its web site, “TALC New Vision assists leaders creating new small schools in Milwaukee from the visioning process through the school’s opening and first two years of operation.”
As the period of the grant from TALC runs out, Anne will continue her work with a collaborative of Milwaukee secondary schools through an organization called Basante LLC, a spin off of TALC.

I was impressed with a definition of constructivism on a flier from Basante LLC.

Constructivism Defined
As a theory of learning, constructivism is not a specific theory or format for teaching. Project based learning and other discovery learning formats are sometimes narrowly assumed to encompass all that constructivism is. However, constructivism includes a variety of learning formats that reflect the following characteristics:

• Learning is facilitated (not delivered or transmitted) by posing structured and unstructured problems and questions. The learners, rather than the teacher are responsible for defending, proving, justifying, and communicating their ideas to the classroom community and the community at large. Time is considered an adaptable resource not a confining obstacle.

• Ambiguity and paradox are navigated not avoided. Knowledge is constructed in context, not representative of a fixed reality. Disequilibrium facilitates learning, so errors in thinking should not be minimized or avoided. Challenging, open-ended investigations in realistic meaningful contexts need to be offered which allow learners to explore and generate many possibilities, both affirming and contradictory. Contradictions, in particular, need to be illuminated, explored, and discussed.

• Dialogue within a community engenders further thinking. The classroom needs to be seen as a democratic community of discourse engaged in activity, reflection, and conversation. Building communities of trust are critical since the constructivist learning approach asks student to take

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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.

3 thoughts on “Constructivism Defined

  1. Dear Peter:

    Let’s go next summer, if you have not gone already. I always read Don’s newsletters. He must be very proud to think you have included his organization’s work in your reflections.


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