Learning Theories



Watch overview videoAn Introduction to the Constructivism Theory (4:29)


Constructivism is a learning theory that explains how students learn.  All students have prior existing knowledge and by using their existing knowledge coupled with teacher-designed learning activities that are active, collaborative, and socially constructed, students can cognitively process new information.  From participation in student-centered learning activities and experiences, students construct new knowledge and personal meaning.

Guidelines for Use

Guideline 1 – Use Active Learning Activities

Develop e-learning modules that are student-centered.  Begin the lesson with learning activities that are active and engage the learner’s prior knowledge.  Some learning activities may include posing a question, solving problems, performing experiments, posing real-world problems, and/or generating discussions. Ensure learning activities are relative to the field of study.  An example is a lesson on mathematical word problems. The lesson is introduced by dividing students into groups, then providing each group with a mathematical word problem and asking each group to explain how and what strategies they can utilize to solve the word problem.

Guideline 2 – Educator’s Role as Facilitator

The educator assumes the role of facilitator, guide, coach, and/or mentor whose role is to prob, question, and to relinquish control of the learning to the learner. Students are active learners, not passive learners.  An example is to begin a biology lesson about the anatomy of a frog with students using a dissection simulation exercise as opposed to a lecture. Afterward, the educator encourages students to participate, discuss, and engage with others on what they have learned from the dissection simulation exercise.

Guideline 3 – Learning is Socially Constructed

Ensure students are active learners who construct the meaning of their learning in a collaborative environment.  Learning must be socially constructed, reflective, and include multiple perspectives. Students take ownership of their learning.  Educator’s learning environments include group work, discussion forums, debates, group projects, and/or journal entries. Learners should share their learning with others to ensure multiple perspectives are considered.

Good Examples of Use

Example 1 – Problem-based Learning in Biology

Problem-based Learning is used as a learning activity in a biology course.

Example 2 – Classroom Example of Constructivism

An educator applies a constructivist approach in a primary classroom to conceptualize the need for a formal unit of measurement.

Helpful Resources

Resource 1 – Constructivism in Action

This website is designed as a workshop aimed at defining, demonstrating, exploring and providing tips on how to implement constructivism in an educational environment.

Resource 2 – Constructivist Learning Theory

This website is authored by Associate Professor (Emeritus) John Lawrence Bencze on the theory of constructivism and provides learning principles, recommendations on how to implement this theory in education, and has links to additional resources.

Resource 3 – Video Critique of Constructivism Theory

This 8-minute video by Craig Ferguson in 2017 provides a critique, some challenges, and the need for further study of constructivism.


Bates, A. W., & Poole, G. (2003). Effective Teaching with Technology in Higher Education.  San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

BlueSofaMedia. (2012, December 30). Use a Learning Theory: Constructivism. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/Xa59prZC5gA

Reiser, R. A., & Dempsey, J. V. (2002). Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Education Inc.

WNET/Education. (2004). Workshop: Constructivism as a  Paradigm for Teaching and Learning.  [Web page]. Concept to Classroom. Retrieved from https://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/constructivism/


Your Name Charlene Di Danieli
Email: charlene.didanieli@ontariotechu.net
Twitter: @CDidanieli
Bio: A professor with over 13 years of teaching experience in a community college in Ontario.



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