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What is Constructivism and Am I a Constructivist?

Updated on December 12, 2011

A constructivist as a teacher is intuitive, adaptive, and does not teach lessons by rote.

"Am I/could I be a constructivist?"

Constructivism is a theory explaining how learning happens. A constructivist is therefore a learning facilitator that supports this particular theory in their teaching style. This theory was formalised by Jean Piaget who stressed that “knowing is an adaptive activity.” (Steffe & Gale, 1995.) Piaget “suggested that there are mental structures or ‘schemas’ that store cognitive representations of reality and change in the process of adaptation.” Adaptation occurs when a person accumulates new knowledge in relation to their already-existing schema or mental structures, and that accumulation of knowledge changes an individual’s schema. (Bronson, 2000.)

In other words, the constructivist teacher will teach the student new information by establishing what they already know, and building upon that by adapting new information to already-learned, building a bridge from what they already know, or what they think they know on a topic, to what they should learn on that topic. An important focus of being a constructivist teacher is finding out what your students already know or think they know before seeking to impart new knowledge or realities to them. (Gagnon & Collay, 2006.)

Am I a constructivist? A constructivist as a teacher is intuitive, adaptive, and does not teach lessons by rote. A constructivist teacher may start a lesson by determining students’ prior knowledge by “having them solve a simple problem, define terms, play a game, construct lists, or discuss the topic.” Constructivist teachers will then assist students to apply knowledge to their current understanding or knowledge. (Gagnon & Collay, 2006.) In this way, according to Piaget, “knowing [becomes] and adaptive activity.”

I believe that I am a constructivist as I believe strongly in knowing my students first, knowing what they already know and what they relate to, formulating lessons based on that knowledge so that my students apply new knowledge to existing schemas. This is a highly intuitive learning process and one that, I believe, will assist my students to learn in the most effective way.


Steffe, L & Gale, J. 1995. Constructivism in Education. New Jersey; Lawrence Eribaum Associates, Inc.

Bronson, M. 2000. Self-Regulation in Early Childhood: Nature and Nurture. New York; The Guilford Press, a Division of Guilford Publications, Inc.

Gagnon, G & Collay, M. 2006. Constructivist Learning Design: Key Questions for Teaching to Standards. California; Corwin Press.


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Are you a Bachelor of Education student by any chance?


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