Skip to content

Learning Theories Series 02: Constructivism

In constructivism, as the name suggests, each learner builds upon their previous experience and knowledge to “construct” a new knowledge. Constructivism focuses on learning as an active process, which is personal and individual for each learner. 

Constructivism is largely based on the works of Jean-Jacques Piaget and Lev Vygotsky. Piaget emphasized that a learner’s background, perceptions, and perspective affect their learning. Vygotsky proposed the zone of proximal development (ZPD) that states that to learn or to promote maximum cognitive growth, the learners must be presented with challenging tasks that are beyond their ability range.

“the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem-solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86).

The term “proximal” refers to those skills that the learner is “close” to mastering.

Read more about Zone of Proximal Development.

Jerome Bruner, developed scaffolding theory where‘scaffolding’ is used to metaphorically represent the quality of the Vygotsky’s terms of ‘guidance’ or ‘collaboration’.  Bruner believed that as learners begin to build on their prior knowledge, they require the support of facilitators or scaffolds. As learning continues, the learners become more self-reliant and the unnecessary scaffolds can be removed. 

Read more about Bruner’s theory

Read an article about Integrating Constructivism and Instructional Design