Talk:Constructivism (philosophy of education)

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edit·history·watch·refresh Stock post message.svg To-do list for Constructivism (philosophy of education):

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Dewey Section[edit]

I'm adding this: Dewey said that “constructivists do not look for copies or mirrorings of an outer reality in the human mind” (p. 40.), but instead they rather see humans as “observers, participants, and agents who actively generate and transform the patterns through which they construct the realities that fit them. Resource: Dewey, John. “John Dewey between pragmatism and constructivism.” Fordham American philosophy. Fordham University Press, 2009. --DiegoGac (talk) 20:20, 23 April 2012 (UTC)

Rewriting this article[edit]

The information on Social Constructivism needs to be moved to the appropriate page along with information on CONSTRUCTIONISM, Piaget, and Vygotsky. Dewey, Montessori, and Kolb are the undisputed Constructivists who work with mature learners and mentors or facilitators. Piaget and Vygotsky work with young children, sequential learning, and COGNITIVE development.

This article needs to be disambiguated from constructionist pedagogy. It is a very poorly written article on a very important subject matter.

I have removed a major section on "Constructivist Learning Interventions" which is inappropriately placed in this article. It should have its own page, possibly in a "Constructivist Educational Theories" article. (talk) 21:35, 11 October 2008 (UTC)

I'm restoring this section until this can be discussed and a consensus can be reached. Why do you feel it is inappropriate for this article? Can you clarify what your goal is? WeisheitSuchen (talk) 00:42, 12 October 2008 (UTC)

Yes, it would be great to have consensus on this. This article is relatively important, considering the role of Constructivism and Constructionism on the development of projects such as the OLPC. I removed the constructivist learning intervention because it seemed out of place both within the arc of the article--it had the effect of presenting a very specific pedagogical procedure as a primary component of constructivism. This did not seem appropriate.

There is a great deal of information about Piaget's theories of assimilation, accommodation and equilibrium that should be added to the central thrust of this article.

I think it is important to separate learning theories from teaching theories. These are topics which are regularly conflated in practice and in the construction of their histories. (talk) 06:26, 13 October 2008 (UTC)

Thanks for the explanation. I could agree with moving the constructivist learning interventions out IF they are actually moved to another article, with a summary and link within this main article (see the social constructivism section for an example of how this would work). Perhaps this content could be merged with Constructivist teaching methods, as there seems to be some overlap there. I think the content itself is valuable though, and I don't want it completely lost as your edit would have done. I'd like to wait a week or so and give others a chance to weigh in. Since other editors do not even agree that constructivism is a learning theory, I'm not sure if the distinction between learning theory and teaching theory is going to reach a consensus. (See the discussions at the bottom of this page for debates on learning theory vs. philosophy/epistemology.)
As for the Piaget information, if you want to add it and have the references, go for it. I don't personally have sufficient references to make a section like that work. WeisheitSuchen (talk) 12:26, 13 October 2008 (UTC)
There are a number of issues that I find problematic in this piece, although I have little opportunity to do major re-writes here. First, as many have mentioned, there is an overemphasis on "Piaget". One comment also correctly questions the "learning theory" label. Constructivism is an epistemology--in fact, it is multiple epistemologies. One article (Cathy O'Connor) counted as many as 30 distinct versions of "constructivism", including several non-Papertian versions of "constructionism" (the term itself long precedes Papert's use of it). Lumping them all under a single learning theory label is a mistake.
Second, no distinction is made between Piaget's own philosophy and his early European followers and later American Piagetians (e.g., Gagne) whose views are actually quite distinct, despite usual attributions to Piaget. There are also some distinctions between structuralist and post-structuralist versions of constructivism.
Third, I find it particularly puzzling that only education and cognitive science sources are mentioned throughout. No mention is made of a parallel set of sources in sociology, particularly Merleau-Ponty and Peter Berger (Social Construction of Reality). Others also correctly point out that the American brand of constructivism has been heavily influenced by particular readings of Dewey, while the Vygotskian school was quite a latecomer to the party.
Finally, the use of a single article (or a group of articles by Sweller et al.) as a main source of criticism appears to contradict the Wiki principles. Sweller et al. neither represent the survey of criticism of constructivism nor is it the predominant approach to critiquing constructivism. It also seems to be important to point out that much of the practical disagreement over the so-called "constructivist teaching methods"--for example, in the Math Wars--is more of a political than a theoretical issue and is also largely limited to the US (although versions of Math Wars and Language Wars have erupted in the UK and in Israel in the past). Furthermore, "teaching methods" have little to do with "learning theory"--contrary to the claims of the parties in Math Wars that claim that either theirs or their opponents' textbooks are "constructivist". It seems that focusing on these issues is an example of American Exceptionalism gone awry. As such, it also violates the Wiki principles.Alex.deWitte (talk) 19:31, 5 June 2009 (UTC)

I moved the ROC information from the introduction to "Generalizations" because it is not introductory information and I question it's value on a page concerning learning theory. Stmullin (talk) 03:27, 10 April 2012 (UTC)

This whole article seems to be very problematic as it does not refer to the central defining book of the whole concept (The social Construction of Reality" by Berger and Luckmann 1966/1968....I have no time to correct it, but I am shocked. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:33, 9 February 2015 (UTC)

TOC Font Size[edit]

More and more I am seeing reduced font size for the TOC in Wiki articles. Why? Is this some new style I am not aware of?

Anyone over the age of 45 is not going to appreciate that smallness. I would really like to see this stop. Any ideas?

Nick Beeson 18:09, 21 August 2007 (UTC)

What about a section on Piaget's alpha, beta, and gamma reactions?[edit]

This would be good info to have! If I get time, I'll write it. Cmsmith81 05:25, 8 July 2007 (UTC)cmsmith81

Piaget belongs with CONSTRUCTIONISM not Constructivism. Piaget's research deals with early learners and COGNITIVE development which requires guided instruction.

Need for Separate Article on Social Constructivism[edit]

We really need either an expansion of the Social Constructivism section or a separate article for it... Anyone up to starting that? cmsmith81

I agree, how can you have an article on Constructivism without mentioning Lev Vygotsky? Piaget is only a small part but appears to be the main focus...

Okay, I created it! see Social Constructivism (Learning Theory)... it needs a lot of work, but its there! Cmsmith81 05:25, 8 July 2007 (UTC)cmsmith81

Thank you for creating Social Constructivism . . . please move the information on Piaget and Vygotsky to that page. stmullin — Preceding unsigned comment added by Stmullin (talkcontribs) 19:47, 17 March 2012 (UTC)

I am able to assist with the Social Constructivism section. Just want to make sure that this is still a concern given that the previous messages were from long ago. AerialAmphibious (talk) 02:27, 10 March 2018 (UTC)

General Problems with the Article[edit]

This article looks like it was someone's writing assignment in a teaching-credential program. (The citation style is one used for academic writing.) The author(s) are merely passing on the claims made by advocates of constructivism, taking the claims at face value (as people in teacher-ed programs are generally pressured to do). This article needs to be completely rewritten. - Skaraoke 10:36, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

This article needs to be completely rewritten Sure it does ! Chrisdel 16:11, 23 March 2007 (UTC)

Or maybe a section should be included on objections and arguments to constructivist ideas. - T. Hebert

Re: The Role of the Instructor Rhodes and Bellamy 1999 is not in the list of references at the bottom. It's difficult for people to find the source; please add it. I found "Choices and Consequences in the Renewal of Teacher Edu" from the Journal of Teacher Education, but this does not seem to be the source. (talk) 14:07, 25 January 2011 (UTC)L. Wallace

The constructivist teachers are there to aid the children...[edit]

"The constructivist teachers are there to aid the children, and provided support to their knowledge acquisition."

I deleted this sentence because it does not communicate sufficiently specific information. However, I would welcome a more precise statement about the goals of constructivist teachers.

Areas of this article that need improvement[edit]

The article cites Wertsch (1997) but it does not include this source in the references.

To start with...

  • history of constructivist philosphy citing Plato, Locke, Rousseau, Dewey, von Glasersfeld, Bruner, and others.
  • clarity about the axioms, or fundamental tenets of constructivism.
  • descriptions of the different flavors of constructivist learning theory
  • explanation of social constructivism

and also

  • the other educational philosophies prevalent at the time that Piaget was attempting to disprove
  • the educational movements that used Piaget and Papert's theories to bring about change in education and childcare
  • their successes and failures

also and simply

  • complete references for the in-text citations ... eg: "Social constructivism views each learner as a unique individual with unique needs and backgrounds. The learner is also seen as complex and multidimensional (Gredler 1997)" .. the Gredler text is not mentioned in the references, certainly not properly according to his name.

misconceptions in this article[edit]

It's interesting that the authors believe "communal constructivism" is something *new* other than just a recycling of Deweyan project theory, with the use of technology added.

It's important to note that constructivism itself is a way of understanding cognition. It doesn't say anything about what to do in the classroom. People have developed many many pedagogies (approaches to education) that are based on constructivist theory and most of THOSE involve "learning by doing." Constructivism itself is about what happens in learners' heads. Andicat 12:28, 24 October 2005 (UTC)

I very much agree with the comments in this section. Constructivism is a theory about how the mind works, not about how to best teach. Unfortunately, it has been used to develop questionable teaching techniques. Tneumark 18:26, 22 December 2006 (UTC)

I strongly disagree. Constructivism is not a theory of cognition in any sense. Making general and vague statements about how people think is not a theory in a scientific sense (it is descriptive but not predictive). A true theory of cognition would provide a model of thinking that is testable. Assertions that knowledge is not transmitted is an example of a statement that is directed toward instruction, not explanation of learning. No theory of cognition or learning ever suggested that knowledge is recorded or transferred directly, so that assertion is not useful (but some instructors have acted as if this were true). That knowledge or memories are "constructed" (i.e., not recorded) is an assumption of all existing cognitive theories. The bigger issue involves how knowledge is constructed and it is in answering that question that constructivism reveals its non scientific roots by simply resorting to notions of self direction via some inner agency that smacks of mind-body dualism. Evidence clearly shows that people do not determine what they learn. Things like priming, context specificity, cognitive bias, and prior knowledge (etc.) are not things learners have conscious control of, but greatly influence learning. This article needs to stop claiming that constructivism is any sort of theory and instead indicate that it focuses on directing instructional practices--mainly based on ideology, not empirical evidence or even cognitive theory. Robotczar (talk) 19:44, 31 July 2014 (UTC)

Let's not kid ourselves here folks: I'm not aware of any "new ideas" that are not recycled, rehashed, or in some way reformulated, from old ones. Slap on a new label, some fancy packaging, and new terminology, and it becomes the latest fad in a slow-to-change, but highly faddish, profession. Even academic theorists need to eat.

As a former teacher, and an adherent of the basic theory, I find that it does provide a "baseline" or starting point, from which to formulate lesson planning and teaching strategies, but it should never be viewed as the "end-all-be-all" panacea of any sort. Tanstaafl28 22:50, 6 April 2007 (UTC)

When one looks at the learning process it might be useful to distinquish the paradigms for filling blank slates with teaching and the process of facilitating learning as mind changes with new constructions.

Adding a paragraph from article Constructivist epistemology[edit]

I suggest to move in this article the content of the paragraph "Social constructivist education" in the article Constructivist epistemology which is about "A social constructivist learning intervention". Indeed, this paragraph is too long for the article Constructivist epistemology. Chrisdel 04:24, 4 October 2006 (UTC)

I created a page for Social Constructivism (Learning Theory), just FYI. Cmsmith81 05:27, 8 July 2007 (UTC)

Merge with Constructivist teaching methods[edit]

Should'nt these 2 articles be merged ? Chrisdel 07:22, 5 October 2006 (UTC)

No, they are related, but very different in what they actually are. Piaget's Constructivism is a psychological theory of how humans learn through prior knowledge and the processes of accommodation and assimilation. Papert's Constructionism is a pedagogical approach based on constructivism. This is a very important distinction. It would be like merging the article on Ford Motors with the article on F-150 trucks just because F-150 trucks are one product of Ford's.

Is everyone else in agreement with me on this? Cmsmith81 05:29, 8 July 2007 (UTC)

I'm not sure I buy the Ford metaphor, but I certainly think the articles deserve to be separate. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:36, 14 November 2007 (UTC)

I think the articles should be separate. Piaget's Constructivism and Papert's Constructionism are related theories, whereas the Social Constructivism is originally a criticism of the Piaget's theory with its origins in the Russian Psychology and social-historical theory. This way "Social Constructivism" do not originally "build" on Piaget's work, or should be considered as a "side track" of the Constructivism. --Teemu (talk) 11:43, 7 December 2007 (UTC)

I think the separation of Constructivist learning theory from Constructivist pedagogy inappropriate and damaging to the utility of the article. If anything, a separate article should be created for Piaget, rather than trying to limit what Constructivism has evolved into by confining it to what Piaget formalized almost a century ago. A separate section could be created for the learning theory if necessary.Modern Primate (talk) 11:21, 11 December 2009 (UTC)

One difference now from 2006 when this discussion started is the length of both articles. Just as a point of practicality, the two articles are too long to merge now without cutting a lot of the content from both. Look at how much less was in this article as of October 3, 2006. I don't think it's a realistic solution at this point. WeisheitSuchen (talk) 13:36, 11 December 2009 (UTC)

Criticisms of Constructivism[edit]

I edited the page to include a reference to a prominent group of cognitive scientists (including a Nobel Prize Winner) who questioned the central claims of constructivism, but this reference was removed by the page author. I would like to include content from the following article for the sake of balance. Applications and Misapplications of Cognitive Psychology to Mathematics Education Tneumark 18:23, 22 December 2006 (UTC)

I am not the page author and I have no idea what constructivism is. The reason I removed your edit is that it was essentially an advertisement that contributed little to the article. Find something other than your own thesis paper. BigDT 21:28, 22 December 2006 (UTC)
I re-inserted the reference and another by the same group. I ask that BigDT remember the Wikipedia policy that attacks must be avoided and that good faith should be assumed. In this case, these policies seem especially relevant, since I find no evidence that the cited paper was the editor's "own thesis paper" or "advertisement".
  • John R. Anderson, Lynne M. Reder, and Herbert A. Simon, Applications and misapplications of cognitive psychology to mathematics education, Texas Educational Review 6 (2000).
  • John R. Anderson, Lynne M. Reder, Herbert A. Simon, K. Anders Ericsson, and Robert Glaser, Radical Constructivism and Cognitive Psychology, Brookings Papers on Education Policy (1998), no. 1, 227-278.
Look at Anderson and Simon's Wikipedia articles to learn why their judgment carries weight; read their articles to understand why this Wikipedia article cites unreliable sources and fails to give due weight to the best authorities. Thanks, Kiefer.Wolfowitz (talk) 19:31, 12 May 2010 (UTC)

Current criticism of constructivism is based on the fact that its primary tenet (that unguided learning is superior) runs contrary to the well-established cognitive information processing model--specifically the fact that working memory is very limited (see cognitive load). Also, much empirical evidence supports the superiority of guided learning. The evidence is so strong that constructivists have taken to softening their guidance principle and claiming that their "theory" is the same as "cognitive theory" (whatever that is). Criticisms are summarized in this article: Kirshner, Sweller, and Clarke (2006). Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41(2), 75-86.Robotczar (talk) 21:49, 31 July 2014 (UTC)


The introduction doesn't do a very good job of explaining what constructivism *is*. It just has a circular definition. --jacobolus (t) 00:29, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

Yep, this is pretty much the case. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:47, 20 April 2010 (UTC)

You are correct. My understanding of Constructivist Learning Theory is that it is a branch of Cognitive Learning Theory, whereby the learner is thought to create, or construct their knowledge based upon previous learning and experience. "Knowledge" (according to Constructivist Learning Theory) is described as an interconnected structure that is built upon itself by the individual learner. Tanstaafl28 22:56, 6 April 2007 (UTC)

Another note: Connectionism is different from Constructivism. Connectionism is the inter-relatedness of concepts and stems from research and theory on artificial intelligence. Constructivism stems from cognitive theories of human learning, but is extending in a very different direction as the theory takes into account the social, emotional, and contextual influences on the ways in which humans construct knowledge. Constructivism is also beginning to account for humans' dispositions, identities, and sociocultural influences. --[Dooley], 2 May 2007 (UTC)

Connectionism is no more about relatedness of concepts than other cognitive theories. Connectionism actually is based on neural structure (parallel simple processing units that are connected rather than large function-specific structures). Scientific cognitive theory was inspired by computer architecture and the most scientifically accepted cognitive model is the information processing model, which posits human cognitive functions are to similar to computer functions. Many "cognitive" theories exist, but only some are scientific theories--others are descriptive and ideological, so claiming a theory is based on cognitive theory tells one practically nothing unless one explains which cognitive theory they are comparing.Robotczar (talk) 21:35, 31 July 2014 (UTC)

A Short Definition of Constructivism[edit]

Constructivism: a theory of learning where humans construct meaning from current knowledge structures

"Cognitive research in mathematics and science... in just a few years... has produced a new concensus on the nature of learning... that learners construct understanding by knowing relationships" between "prior knowledge... structures" Resnick (1982).

Resnick, Lauren B. (May, 1982). Mathematics and Science Learning: A New Conception. Paper presented to the National Convocation on Precollege Education in Mathematics and Science, National Acadamy of Sciences, and National Acadamy of Engineering.

J3n 13:23, 19 February 2007 (UTC)

Constructivism is an epistemology (see Constructivist epistemology and Jean Piaget) which refers to teaching and learning instead of a theory on teaching and learning. Chrisdel 15:29, 19 February 2007 (UTC)


I am a student of Dr. Margaret Gredler at the University of South Carolina. She was apalled to learn that her name was associated with Constructivism. She certainly did author the book that was cited, although her citations were taken out of context. Other citations linked to her are patently false. I will be making some changes soon to remove any reference to Dr. Gredler in the article and to help remove some of the misinformation. I agree that this article needs to be rewritten because it is clearly bent on supporting constructivism and fails any kind of test for objectivity.

For what it's worth, Dr. Gredler considers constructivism to be a philosophy, not a theory, as a proper theory comes with a set of terms and definitions and has been tested and revised.

She studied under Dr. Robert Gagné at Florida State University and is currently finishing the sixth edition of her learning theory textbook.

I will be happy to take discussion on these points.

Chris —Preceding unsigned comment added by Cmcraft (talkcontribs) 10:24, 2 November 2007 (UTC)

If there are citations which are inaccurate, by all means, correct the info! For the citations which are taken "out of context," please add some context. But is it really necessary to remove every instance of her name? I don't see that this shows her as being a proponent of constructivism from the references, just that she has written about the effects of background, culture, and symbol systems on learners.
Take a look at the section on criticisms of constructivism too; maybe there is something you can add to that section to bring this closer to what you feel would be a NPOV. However, for the bulk of the article, it seems appropriate to say "these are the arguments of constructivism, the applications, and what it's based on." Are there specific statements which you feel don't meet the standard of NPOV that you feel the objectivity is lacking? Help me understand what you're looking for here. WeisheitSuchen 16:25, 2 November 2007 (UTC)

Proposed merge[edit]

The idea seems fine to me.Anthony Krupp (talk) 22:27, 28 November 2007 (UTC)

Retract, reading some more of above, including recent comments.Anthony Krupp (talk) 13:49, 7 December 2007 (UTC)
I would prefer to see them separate as well, based on the previous discussions and amount of content in each article. WeisheitSuchen (talk) 16:36, 8 December 2007 (UTC)

Learning Theory or Philosophy[edit]

Dlewis3 had changed the intro paragraph to call constructivism a philosophical framework rather than a learning theory. I understand that people argue this, but the introduction paragraph of an article titled "Constructivism (learning theory)" doesn't seem like the place to put it. I moved the philosophy vs. learning theory statement to the criticisms section, which seemed more appropriate to me. Calling it a philosophy without explaining the controversy seems to not be NPOV to me. If anyone has a better idea of how to handle this though, please share! WeisheitSuchen (talk) 16:47, 8 December 2007 (UTC)

Aren't theories testable? So isn't constructivism is a philosophy of learning?--Dlewis3 (talk) 20:24, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

Find a reference to argue that point and put it in the criticisms section. I think that's the appropriate place for it. However, it is called a learning theory in other published works, so I still think calling it a learning theory in the intro paragraph is appropriate. When it's called a learning theory in textbooks about learning theories, isn't that enough?
See Ormrod, J. A. (2004). Human Learning, 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, p. 180
Could someone else weigh in on this issue please? I think DLewis and I are not going to convince each other. I absolutely think that the criticism that constructivism is a philosophy or epistemology should be included in the article, but I'd like to see it in the criticisms section instead of the intro paragraph. DLewis doesn't want constructivism called a learning theory. Can I get some votes on this please?
WeisheitSuchen (talk) 20:48, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

Calling constructivism a "learning theory" is misleading at best. Remember that in science, theory has a specific meaning, i.e., a unifying idea that is very well supported by evidence, and is no longer held in reasonable doubt by practitioners in the field. clearly constructivism (as well as other supposed theories of learning) do not rise to that level. The education establishment has appropriated the concept of a scientific theory without proper justification. The word theory as used in describing theories of learning is being used in the more common everyday sense of "an idea, an educated guess, or similar concepts. Another way to describe the distinction is to point out that the theory of gravity is a scientific theory (very well supported by data/evidence, useful in increasing understanding, unifying, useful for making predictions, no longer doubted in its basics, etc.), but theories of learning are not. It is unfortunately common for researchers and specialists in non- or marginally-scientific fields to appropriate and misuse science terminology, and this behavior is especially prevalent with the concept of "theory". — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:24, 30 September 2011 (UTC)

I agree that constructivism is an educational philosophy and not a theory. What was started before is accurate: theories need to be able to be tested. Constructivism encompasses several learning theories, all of which are based upon the idea that knowledge results from the interaction between a learner and a learning object (as opposed to other philosophies which see knowledge as existing separately from the learner and which can be acquired rather than experienced). AerialAmphibious (talk) 02:45, 10 March 2018 (UTC)

Responses to criticisms, Recent Debates[edit]

The main article cited in the criticisms of constructivism section has been written about and criticized by a number of sources. I added a paragraph summarizing some of these responses within the criticisms section. Is this the best place for this content, or should the criticisms section be reserved solely for constructivism's detractors and my new paragraph be moved somewhere else?

I'm also not sure why we need a "recent debates" section plus a "criticisms" section. Would anyone object if I combined these two sections into one larger section about the controversies, which would include both the critcisms and responses? WeisheitSuchen (talk) 16:45, 8 December 2007 (UTC)

However, the Kirschner, et al article itself has been criticized by a number of authors for various reasons. Critics argue that the article creates a false dilemma between "guided" and "unguided" instruction without recognizing the continuum of guidance and structure possible [citation needed]. Kirschner et al also group a number of learning theories together, disregarding the differences and actual amount of structure and scaffolding included in the theories.[1][2] They also focus more on learning as memorization rather than learning as behavior change or action. For example, they criticize a project-based learning experiment for medical students because students did not perform as well on a written test as traditionally taught students; however, the students demonstrated better clinical skills. Some critics of Kirschner et al have argued that they personally would prefer the better clinical skills, regardless of written test performance.[3] —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

It looks like just deleted the responses to the criticisms and put them here. Thanks to Mentifisto for reverting the deletes. I'm happy to have a discussion with someone on this; I do understand that it's a controversial topic and there are multiple ways we could handle it. I would like to see explanations for deletes though. Thanks!
WeisheitSuchen (talk) 19:39, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

I didn't delete it, I moved them here to the discussion area. They are just above. I wasn't trying to be a pain. I just felt it was more appropriate for discussion. -- (talk) 19:53, 13 December 2007 (UTC)--Dlewis3 (talk) 19:57, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

Since there hasn't been any disagreement in the last three weeks, I'm going to go ahead and merge the Recent Debates section with the Controversy section so all that content is together and easier to understand. I will delete some content that is uncited or duplicated elsewhere in the article.WeisheitSuchen (talk) 03:38, 27 December 2007 (UTC)


Research on constructivist teaching techniques[edit]

Unfortunately many a reader is not aware of "grey literature" and can not tell the difference between "folk psychologies" and the real thing. This can be said of constructivism as well. Decades of research have shown us that constructivist teaching techniques are far less effective for teaching novices. Guidance is necessary early in the learning process (Mayer, 2004).

Constructivist teaching techniques expect a learner to "learn by doing." Personally it is unethical to "teach a kid to swim, by throwing them in the water." What's the difference???? Most learners are novices, so why build a problem-based learning environments (aka CLEs) if the learner doesn't understand the basics. Same thing...

--Dlewis3 (talk) 22:28, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

Constructivist teaching techniques existed far before the term "Constructivist" came into common use or was acknowledged as a legitimate learning theory. Experiential based teaching of mature learners (learners with advanced schema development) can be found in the works of Dewey, Montessori, and Kolb where the instructor is a mentor or facilitator of high order learning rather than a teacher. Less experienced learners (learners with limited schema development) require more guidance from a teacher who enables the low order learning addressed by Behaviorists [e.g. Skinner, Itard] or Cognitivist [e.g.Piaget or Vygotsky]. (talk) 16:55, 23 April 2012 (UTC)


  • Mayer, R. (2004). "Should there be a three-strikes rule against pure discovery learning? The case for guided methods of instruction". American Psychologist. 59 (1): 14–19.
  • Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J., and Clark, R. E. (2006). "Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: an analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching". Educational Psychologist. 41 (2): 75–86.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

--Dlewis3 (talk) 22:28, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

Your sources look good. Write it up with appropriate tone for the article and include it in the recent debates or criticisms section. If there's a question about what to include in the article you'd like to have answered, please clarify what you're asking and I'm sure we can come up with an answer.WeisheitSuchen (talk) 23:51, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

WeisheitSuchen, I've added a new section that you might find interesting. Check out "Constructivist learning environments? ...for which learners?" --Dlewis3 (talk) 01:26, 14 December 2007 (UTC)

Criticisms and Counterarguments[edit]

Dlewis, I have some questions about the three numbered points you have added to the article in response to the criticisms. I've quoted them below so you can see what I'm referring to.

"While these criticisms are somewhat understandable (and welcomed!), they misrepresent this article, because Kirschner, et al (2006) focuses on:

1. useful instructional designs for producing procedural learning (learning as behavior change); 2. explain their grouping of seemingly disparate learning theories and;

3. does explains a continuum of guidance."

First, this doesn't seem to be written with an encyclopedic tone--it seems like you're wanting the article to be a discussion forum. As you and I have discussed previously, Wikipedia is not a discussion forum.

Regarding the third point specifically, where in the Kirschner article do they acknowledge that techniques such as scaffolding (which fall in the middle of the guidance continuuum) are used as part of constructivist teaching? I've just looked at the article again, and I simply don't see it. In the opening paragraph, they portray it as a dichotomy, with constructivist and other methods being "minimally guided" as indicated in the title. From the article:

On one side of this argument are those advocating the hypothesis that people learn best in an unguided or minimally guided environment, generally defined as one in which learners, rather than being presented with essential information, must discover or construct essential information for themselves (e.g., Bruner, 1961; Papert, 1980; Steffe & Gale, 1995). On the other side are those suggesting that novice learners should be provided with direct instructional guidance on the concepts and procedures required by a particular discipline and should not be left to discover those procedures by themselves (e.g., Cronbach & Snow, 1977; Klahr & Nigam, 2004; Mayer, 2004; Shulman & Keisler, 1966; Sweller, 2003). (emphasis added)

Perhaps rather than including your own interpretation of Kirschner or your original research, you can cite a published response from Kirschner, Sweller, Clark or someone else. Of course, if you can provide a quote from the Kirschner et al article that does in fact say what you claim it says, that's great too. Don't forget to write it up with an appropriate tone--obviously criticisms are welcomed when we're aiming for NPOV.

Thanks!WeisheitSuchen (talk) 23:44, 15 December 2007 (UTC)

I think there's still a POV problem in this section, although your edits have moved it in the right direction. I don't feel that this sentence is NPOV or verifiable: "While these criticisms are somewhat understandable, they misrepresent the intentions of these authors."
First, the phrase "somewhat understandable" isn't neutral; to me it basically implies, "well, yes, I can kind of see where you're coming from, but you're still wrong." It makes a value judgment rather than simply presenting the facts and letting them speak for themselves.
Second, "misrepresent the intentions of the authors" is problematic. How do you know what the authors intended without citing them saying what they intended? "Misrepresent" is an opinion. You can say something like "In his response to criticisms, Kirschner said he was misrepresented" and then cite that response. Right now it's just an unsourced opinion though.
Dlewis3, can you please take another look at this section and cite all the statements? What's really needed here is not an analysis of the earlier research or the original Kirschner et al article, but published responses to these criticisms. Anything that responds to criticisms of the article by going back to interpret the original article probably won't work; you need more recent sources that respond to the criticisms. Thanks!
WeisheitSuchen (talk) 16:23, 29 December 2007 (UTC)
I still have some concerns about the 3rd point of response to criticisms of Kirschner. The criticism of Kirschner et al is that they don't acknowledge a continuum of guidance within constructivist teaching. The third point says the article "explain[s] a continuum of guidance," but I've read the article repeatedly and I don't see where they talk about guidance possible within constructivism. For example, Mayer talks about guided discovery as an effective constructivist teaching method. Can you provide a quote here in this discussion that backs up your statement? Otherwise I think that statement may be reading something into the article that isn't actually there and it should be removed.
One of the issues with that whole section is that you're responding to criticisms by going back in time to older sources. I think it would be more effective if you would look at sources that have been published after the criticisms. For example, if you found something from Sweller reviewing the Hmelo-Silver article, that would be a great source for these responses.
By the way, I removed the opening clause you added to the section: "As mentioned above Constructivism is quite popular in education, thus the Kirschner, et al (2006) article has been criticized by a number of authors for various reasons." It's your personal opinion that the criticisms are because of the popularity of constructivism. I expect if we asked Hmelo-Silver, Downes, the Drs. Eide, or other critics of Kirschner, they would say their criticisms have nothing to do with popularity. They would say that their criticisms are based on other research, personal experience, or whatever. If you have a quote from Kirschner or someone else who says the criticisms are due to the popularity, then you can include that statement with the citation, making it clear that it's not an undisputed fact but a statement from an individual.WeisheitSuchen (talk) 18:35, 6 January 2008 (UTC)

Thoughts on the Mayer 2004 article[edit]

WeisheitSuchen although I understand you are trying to take a neutral point of view, I would say the quote presented from the Mayer 2004 article misrepresents this article’s intent.

One could just as easily have quoted:

“It certainly means that a doctrine based approach to constructivism does not lead to fruitful educational practice. The research in this brief review shows that the formula constructivism = hands-on activity is a formula for educational disaster.” (Mayer, 2004, p.17)


“If constructivism is so complex that no predictions can be derived from it, then it is not a scientific theory.” (Mayer, 2004, p 18)

But neither are the point of the article.

While this may seem odd coming from me, I do believe people construct their knowledge, but that's not what's at issue here, it's the instructional design recommendations of constructivism, when novices are the audience. Mayer’s point is that people often misuse constructivism. In addition, Mayer specifically cites the Sweller (1999) article [which compared discovery-based problem solving to studying worked examples], when he says:

“For example, a recent replication is research showing that students learn to become better at solving mathematics problems when they study worked-out examples rather than when they solely engage in hands-on problem solving (Sweller, 1999). Today’s proponents of discovery methods, who claim to draw their support from constructivist philosophy, are making inroads into educational practice. Yet a dispassionate review of the relevant research literatures shows that discovery-based practice is not as effective as guided discovery.” (Mayer, 2004, p. 18) The Kirschner et al (2006) article followed on this point to describe constructivist instructional design recommendations as "unguided instruction."

WeisheitSuchen, I hope you'll join me in working to refine this article to make it both palatable (for both sides of the issue, NPOV) and not so politically correct that it misses the point.

--Dlewis3 (talk) 21:50, 29 December 2007 (UTC)

As I've stated previously, I'm not going to debate the content of constructivism with you, just what we include in the article and how we do it. I like how you put both quotes from Mayer together. I think part of it is that Mayer's article takes a more nuanced position, so it's hard to show his position fully with a single quote. Mayer's article can be used to both justify and attack constructivism depending on how you slant it, but I think the current revision is a nice compromise.
Your rephrasing of the responses to criticisms as "While there are many critics of the Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark article, Sweller and his associates focus on:" is great--that sounds much more NPOV to me.
I think one of the problems in this debate is that not everyone uses the language the same. When Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark say "constructivist," they mean pure discovery methods--unguided or "minimally guided" teaching. When Jonassen, Hmelo-Silver, or other constructivists talk about instructional design and teaching methods, there's a whole range of guidance included. Scaffolding is a common teaching method for constructivists. That's what I think Mayer's quote is getting at--he isn't opposed to constructivism per se, he's opposed to pure discovery as the sole teaching method. There are some pure discovery people out there of course, but most of the real people working in the field who self-identify as constructivists are more along the lines of Jonassen and Hmelo-Silver, at least in my experience and from my reading. When you make the arguments about when "constructivist" teaching methods should be used, you're using Kirschner et al's definition of constructivism as unguided, rather than Jonassen's. It's a different discussion if it's framed as a question of when "unguided" or "pure discovery" teaching methods should be used. But of course that takes the other side of the argument.
What I wonder now is how to explain this difference in the way the terminology is used in the article. I have to let these ideas percolate a bit, but if you have some ideas on how to frame that explanation, feel free to get it started. I'd like to try to find a middle ground for how to frame the idea of "when should constructivist methods be used" that doesn't rely on either side of the argument, but I'm not coming up with anything right now.
There's definitely progress here, and I'm really happy with the direction we're moving for the article. WeisheitSuchen (talk) 00:08, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

Learning theory or epistemology[edit]

Okay I believe I may have sealed that breach... Now that's out of the way.

I would like to get back to where this all started… and it falls in line with my original line of reasoning.

I don't believe constructivism is a learning theory. I agree with Chrisdel (19 February 2007) that Constructivism is an epistemology (see Constructivist epistemology and Jean Piaget).

Mayer (2004) even states: “If constructivism is so complex that no predictions can be derived from it, then it is not a scientific theory.” (Mayer, 2004, p 18)

Amazingly this idea changes the nature of this whole page. Does anybody agree with me???

--Dlewis3 (talk) 00:51, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

Dlewis3, can you please clarify what you're proposing? Do you want to change the name of this article? Do you want to replace all references to "constructivism as learning theory" with "constructivism as epistemology"? Do you want to merge this content into the Constructivist epistemology article? It isn't clear what you're asking to be done with the article. WeisheitSuchen (talk) 16:03, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

Proposed edits

I had a couple of thoughts about this. Personally this page is really too big, and should be restructured. Also as I stated earlier I don't believe constructivism is a learning theory. So I have three major suggestions:

  1. The section called "Constructivist learning intervention" seems to be a stand alone article. Personally I believe it should be separated out, to be it's own article... or it should be merged with "Social Constructivism (Learning Theory)". I would also rename this new page "Social Constructivism (Learning)"
  2. I also think we should rename the page left after the above edits. Perhaps it should be "Constructivism (learning)" -- it's only the theory term that I'm concerned with.
  3. Finally, I would edit the "Constructivism" page to describe the changes made.

--Dlewis3 (talk) 17:12, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

I think what should determine the primary article content is the majority position. The majority opinion is that the constructivist learning theory is derived from or based on the constructivist epistemology; constructivism is both a learning theory and an epistemology. The idea that constructivism is only a philosophy or epistemology rather than also being a learning theory is a significant minority position and should be included in the controversies section. I don't think that the minority position should determine the entire framing of the article.
This isn't a question of who is right or wrong; we can't answer that question here. Experts in the field can't agree, so the best we can do is show the controversy. I hate to say it, but what you personally believe has no place in this discussion. It's just about what people in the field say and do. If you want to debate whether it's a learning theory or not, start a blog and host a debate there.
The quotes and references below are just to show the majority opinion and that calling constructivism a learning theory is commonplace.
  • Search results: This is a very rough measure of popularity of course, but it's relevant to the discussion of majority vs. minority opinions.
    • The phrase "Constructivism is a learning theory" gets 1720 hits on Google; 68 in Google Scholar.
    • "Constructivism is not a learning theory" gets 1 hit on Google, none in Google Scholar.
    • "Constructivist learning theory" returns 2130 hits on Google Scholar.
    • The ERIC (Education Resources Information Center) database has categories for "Constructivism (Learning)" and "Epistemology." The "Constructivism (Learning)" category has 3414 items in it total; only 273 of those also are in the category "Epistemology."
  • Textbooks referring to constructivism as a learning theory:
    • Learning Theories: An Educational Perspective, 5th ed, Schunk, 2008. Ch. 6: "Constructivist Theory"
    • Psychology of Learning for Instruction, 3rd ed, Driscoll, 2004. Ch. 11: "Constructivism: A Contrasting Theory"
    • Educational Psychology: Theory and Practice, 7th ed, Slavin, 2003, Ch. 8: "Student-Centered and Constructivist Approaches to Instruction" (see quote below)
    • Educational Psychology, Active Learning Edition, 10th ed, Woolfolk, 2008. "Section IX: SOCIAL COGNITIVE AND CONSTRUCTIVIST VIEWS OF LEARNING" (Although it doesn't say "learning theory" anywhere, this text refers to the behaviorist and cognitivist theories as "Views of Learning" too.
  • Relevant quotes:
    • "Theories of learning that focus on how people work together, either at a single setting or over the course of many years, reflect a perspective known as social constructivism." [italics added] Human Learning, 4th ed, Jeanne Ellis Ormrod, p. 180
    • "A revolution is taking place in educational psychology. This revolution goes by many names, but the name that is most frequently used is constructivist theories of learning. 'Educational Psychology: Theory and Practice, 7th ed, Slavin, 2003, p. 257
    • "There is little discussion of constructivist learning theory guiding the design and practice of distance education beyond the need for active discussion among students. It is important to clarify that we do not think that a different theory of learning applies just because we have moved to a distance environment." [emphasis added] Designing Environments for Distributed Learning: Learning theory and practice. Thomas M. Duffy & Jamie Kirkley, 2004. p. 7.
    • "In the constructivist theory, learning takes place when a student actively constructs new ideas." [emphasis added] Learning Objects and Instructional Design, By Alex Koohang, Keith Harmanp. 7
    • "Relatively recently, the field has experienced the strong influence of constructivist learning theory and a shift from teacher-controlled to learner-centred instruction (Reigeluth, 1996; 1999)." [emphasis added] [1] A Review of What Instructional Designers Do: Questions Answered and Questions Not Asked. Kenny, Zhang, Schwier, & Campbell. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 31(1) Winter 2005.
    • "The constructivist learning theory contends that learning is a proactive and goal-oriented process..." [emphasis added] [2]Learning Together Online: Research on Asynchronous Learning Networks, Hiltz, Goldman, 2005. p. 192
  1. I don't think that "Constructivist learning intervention" is really the best title for that section. Perhaps "Constructivist learning" would be better, although I'm open to other suggestions too.
  2. My vote is to leave the article title as is, consistent with common use, based on the sources above.
  3. Not counting references, the current word count is about 5750 words. That's comparable to Cognitive science, although longer than either behaviorism or cognitivism. This meets the guidelines for article size, which says 6000-10000 words is too long. It's at the upper end, but it's hardly a critical change based on the standards. The 48K size says it "May eventually need to be divided" but it could expand before we should split it. However, the size is a good reason to not merge social constructivism into this article.
WeisheitSuchen (talk) 17:56, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

Adding to the lines of "Constructivist Learning", I would think that a short mention of unschooling, which (in my opinion) is "Contructivist Learning" in action and in modern terms, would be helpful for a reader -- to have access to a more concrete example of "Constructivist Learning" -- to be able to see the learning theory applied 'in real life'. elijahsmum (talk) 19:38, 1 June 2008 (UTC)

If you have a source that connects unschooling to constructivism, write it up as an example. I do think that it would be best in the Constructivist teaching methods article rather than here in the main article though. That's where the rest of the concrete examples are. WeisheitSuchen (talk) 03:58, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

Constructivism is certainly not a learning theory - it is much too broad and is an umbrella for many different learning theories. Calling it an epistemology wouldn't be incorrect, although this would be separate from constructivism as an educational philosophy. AerialAmphibious (talk) 02:35, 10 March 2018 (UTC)

Minority position[edit]

...a good, but a rather lengthy argument.

In reply, I'll keep it short... the minority position in this case is science...

Recall that Mayer (2004) states: “If constructivism is so complex that no predictions can be derived from it, then it is not a scientific theory.” (Mayer, 2004, p 18)

By the way here's another quote from Mayer (2000) which might apply to the use of Constructivism as a "learning theory"...

"The basic principles underlying scientific research are as simple as they are old-fashioned: Theories about the way the universe works must be tested against empirical data. In this way, science incorporates a self-correcting mechanism in which theories that cannot be reconciled with empirical data are not accepted." (p.38)

  • Mayer, R. (2000). What is the place of science in educational research? Educational Researcher, 29, 38-39.

While I'm tempted to pair these two quotes in the criticism section, I think I should refrain... something tells me the NPOV police will get me. :)

--Dlewis3 (talk) 00:10, 31 December 2007 (UTC)

There's scientific, peer-reviewed research supporting both sides of the argument. It simply isn't as clear-cut an issue as what you're trying to argue here. You can disagree with the research, as Mayer does, but it doesn't change the fact that other research contradicts what Mayer says. Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark claiming there's no evidence to the contrary doesn't make it so, no matter how many times they repeat the argument. The minority position is one set of scientific research which is contradicted by another set of research. Besides, determining the validity of the two opposing sets of research isn't actually what we're doing here; that's well beyond the scope of any encyclopedia.
You're welcome to make the argument that it isn't a learning theory in the criticisms section; I actually had moved your statement that it's a philosophy and not a learning theory there on 12/8, but it was deleted because it lacked a citation.
Other than adding the argument that it's a philosophy or epistemology rather than a learning theory to the criticisms section, I think it would be best to let this sit for a few weeks to allow other people to join the conversation.
On a completely unrelated note, would you mind adding edit summaries for your changes? It would be really helpful to track what has been done. Thanks!
WeisheitSuchen (talk) 03:27, 31 December 2007 (UTC)

I agree with you, perhaps others will comment... before doing so, I suggest they do so from and informed perspective, perhaps by first reading Tuovinen and Sweller (1999) if they haven't already done so.

Tuovinen, J.E. and Sweller, J. (1999) A comparison of cognitive load associated with discovery learning and worked examples. Journal of educational psychology. 91 (2) 334-341.

Have a Happy New Year!!!

--Dlewis3 (talk) 12:51, 31 December 2007 (UTC)

Its kind of sad that Wikipedia, has become academic graffiti on some pages.... anon.. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:59, 26 February 2009 (UTC)


Brown et al (1989) is referenced multiple times, but there is no listing in the reference list. I think this is also true for other references. It is also not clear whether "Brown" refers to John Seely Brown, or some other author. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:22, 22 August 2008 (UTC)

Harkness Discussion Method[edit]

This new section is interesting, but why is it being placed under "The nature of the learner"? It doesn't seem to flow with the other sub-sections. I think there are more appropriate sections for method examples further on in the article. --seberle (talk) 22:13, 30 January 2011 (UTC)

This section is too long/repetitious, too casual ("get it rolling"), at times sounds like a personal account (use of "this" in "get this discussion rolling" refers to a discusion happening right now?), and suffers from objectivity problems, specifically, sounding like personal praise/advocacy for Harkness ("to unravel its mysteries" waxes a little melodramatic, for example). Also, it's not clear to me that a section on Harkness really fits here. There are any number of peer discussion based pedagogies, of which this is one "brand," and a more high-level section that lists Harkness among others might be more appropriate. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:26, 2 September 2011 (UTC)

The Role of the Instructor[edit]

I would like to add the following sentences or idea to The role of the instructor section of this page.

Teaching and learning are not identical. A teacher can teach but a student may not learn.

--Crrr4 (talk) 01:54, 21 April 2012 (UTC)

This is a very good point. Isn't the point of a constructivist learner to experience things and learn from their own prior knowledge. Also, at what point in the Constructivist theory are we going from learning from prior knowledge, to picking up something that never existed prior. Spignecd (talk) 18:38, 22 April 2012 (UTC)

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Problem-Based Learning[edit]

Hello I am a student from the University of South Carolina. One of the assignments for one of my class is to make a contribution to a learning theory on Wikipedia. I am wondering if Problem-based learning has anything to do with Constructivism. I have done some reading and there is a seven-step process to problem-based learning. The seven steps are: 1)Clarify concepts, 2) Define the problem, 3)Analyze the problem, 4)Classify the problem, 5)Formulate learning objectives, 6)Self Study, 7)Reporting. Michael Li (talk) 03:43, 7 December 2012 (UTC)Leslie Jenkins (talk) (talk) 16:25, 11 December 2012 (UTC). (Juan Apolinar) (talk) 12:44, 11 December 2012

Problem-Based Learning (PBL) follows a constructivist perspective in learning as the role of the instructor is to guide and challenge the learning process rather than strictly providing knowledge.Leslie Jenkins (talk)Pinkribbon4me (talk) 16:52, 11 December 2012 (UTC)

Please also add any comments you feel may be helpful. We welcome ratings from multiple editors on the same article. Add your input here. Thanks! -- LiAnna Davis (WMF) (talk) 20:53, 27 May 2012 (UTC)

Archiving Talk Page[edit]

I would like to suggest auto archiving this talk page since most issues have been addressed.Stmullin (talk) 22:39, 10 November 2013 (UTC)

Change of subject[edit]

I had not seen this article for a couple of years. Why did it change from an article about the constructivist theory of learning to an article about constructivist teaching theory? I do not see anything about this change of subject on the talk page. What now distinguishes the subject of this article from that of Constructivist teaching methods?

The philosophy of education articles (Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Humanism, and Constructivism) define perspectives . . . other articles articulate methods . . . there is considerable debate about perspectives being raised to Philosophy status so it is advisable to keep the methodology separate. Please note that Philosophy, Psychology, and Education are all following the edits to this page. Stmullin (talk) 23:08, 30 December 2013 (UTC)

good source[edit]

Gale Encyclopedia of Education --Espoo (talk) 17:24, 19 January 2014 (UTC)

Possible copyright problem[edit]

This article has been revised as part of a large-scale clean-up project of multiple article copyright infringement. (See the investigation subpage) Earlier text must not be restored, unless it can be verified to be free of infringement. For legal reasons, Wikipedia cannot accept copyrighted text or images borrowed from other web sites or printed material; such additions must be deleted. Contributors may use sources as a source of information, but not as a source of sentences or phrases. Accordingly, the material may be rewritten, but only if it does not infringe on the copyright of the original or plagiarize from that source. Please see our guideline on non-free text for how to properly implement limited quotations of copyrighted text. Wikipedia takes copyright violations very seriously. Justlettersandnumbers (talk) 23:34, 23 April 2014 (UTC)

Problems included substantial copyright violations from this document. I regret that some valid edits made subsequently may as a result need to be redone. Justlettersandnumbers (talk) 23:34, 23 April 2014 (UTC)

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Constructivist Design Theory[edit]

I would like to add a section on Constructivist Design Theory, however I wanted to check first and see if other feel this would be appropriate under this article, or if I should begin drafting a separate article altogether. AerialAmphibious (talk) 02:38, 10 March 2018 (UTC)