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Try It Yourself

Page history last edited by Alix Burdett 13 years, 11 months ago

Explore the following guidelines for incorporating constructivist principles into your teaching. They are adapted from the book “Constructivist Methods For the Secondary Classroom: Engaged Minds” by I. Gabler and M. Schroeder published in 2003 by Pearson Education Inc.



1. Guiding Principles:

➢    We can transmit words, but not understanding. Ultimately, it is up to the learner to make sense of the experience.

➢    Learning is the construction of meaning between the event taking place and our previous experiences

➢    Existing ideas are stable and resistant to change. Old ideas must be challenged through cognitive dissonance (discomfort from new information clashing with present beliefs). New ideas must be seen as plausible, and useful in explaining an action or event better than the original idea.

and finally…

➢    Always ask yourself

“ What is the student doing mentally during instruction, and how can I provide opportunities for active mental processing?”


2. Guidelines for a constructivist classroom:

Make your classroom an ACTIVE environment

➢    Assessment through performance, and a variety of assessment

➢    Curricula that emphasizes big ideas

➢    Teacher as a guide/facilitator/coach and student as worker/independent thinker

➢    Interaction, teacher-student and student-student

➢    Variety, of tools, techniques and methods

➢    Engagement (What are the students doing mentally?)


3. Guidelines for Constructivist lessons: 

a.  Try using a “Cognitive framework” to outline your lessons

Cognitive framework:  An organized progression of facts and ideas that directs thinking


There are two main types of cognitive frameworks:

i. Deductive frameworks

ii. Inductive frameworks


deductive = general → specific

eg. concept definition is taught--> students derive facts


 inductive = specific → general

eg. facts are given --> students derive concept definition


4. Now you try it! 

Deductive framework lesson planner:


1.    Decide on a concept or principle

2.    Think of possible instructional materials

3.    Write a working concept definition

4.    Write 4-5 possible facts manifesting the concept that the students can derive from the materials and life experiences

5.    Give 2-3 anti-facts (contradict the concept definition)

6.    Using Bloom’s taxonomy, compose 6-8 questions moving up the taxonomy to guide the students to relate the facts to the concept definition

7.    Anticipate one possible them that your students could generate: designing questions to facilitate student formulation of a unifying theme.


Inductive Framework lesson planner:


1.    Decide on a concept or principle

2.    Think of possible instructional materials

3.     Think of 4-5 possible facts manifesting the concept that the students could derive from the materials and life experiences

4.     Give 2-3 antifacts

5.    Write a possible working concept or definition that your students could generate from the facts

6.    Compose Bloom’s questions to facilitate student’s working concept definition

7.    Write one possible theme that your students could generate

8.    Compose 3-5 Bloom’s questions to facilitate student formulation of a unifying theme


For more info on Bloom’s Taxonomy Questions:

Click here or copy and paste the following link:



5. Core components of a constructivist lesson plan: 

Here is a suggested constructivist lesson plan outline.




1.    Rationale

a.    What are you teaching?

b.    Why are you teaching this?

c.    Justification in terms of curriculum

2.    Performance Objective

a.    Preparation for creating a product:

•    What do your students need to know?

b.    Product that demonstrates learning:

•    What will your students do to demonstrate learning?

c.    Criteria that ensures acceptable achievement:

•    What constitutes an acceptable level of learning?

3.    Materials

a.    Textbook

b.    Primary sources

c.    Audio/visual

d.    Information technology

e.    Etc.



4.    Student aim: What will you tell the students the purpose of the lesson is? Captures the rationale in succinct, colloquial language

5.    Hook: Grabs student interest

6.    Development

a.    Unfolds a given method (see number “8. Examples of Constructivist Methods”)

b.    Contains prompts

7.    Culmination

a.    Wrap up summarizes the key points

b.    Include a “Leap” that elicits a related new concept or application of the topic


Assessment and Evaluation Plan

(what has been learned and how well)

includes performance-based examination of:

➢    student projects

➢    presentations

➢    journals

➢    portfolios

➢    group/lab activities

➢    role-playing

➢    etc.


7. Techniques and tools:

The following are techniques and tools that can help develop the cognitive framework

➢    questioning

➢    brainstorming

➢    role-playing

➢    personalizing

➢    concept mapping

➢    modeling

➢    peer groups/cooperative learning

➢    heuristics

➢    advance organizers

➢    transitions

➢    Group learning:

o    Jigsaw

o    structured controversy

o    teams-game tournament

o    group re-tellings

o    response groups

o    cybernetic discussions



For examples of cooperative learning techniques

click here or visit http://edtech.kennesaw.edu/intech/cooperativelearning.htm#activities


Questions to consider for peer group learning

1.    How will you assign students to groups? How many in each?

2.    What will you ask the student to do in the groups? Consider set roles for each student.

3.    How much time will you allow for the event?

4.    What questions might you ask the groups as they work?

5.    How will you processes the group learning event? (e.g. a summarizing discussion or presentations?)


8. Examples of Constructivist Methods:

1.    ILPE method (investigating learner’s previous experiences):

•    Teacher leads students to brainstorm an idea to allow the teacher to assess prior knowledge.

2.    Deductive concept method:

•    Teacher defines concept and leads students to give examples and non-examples.

3.    Inductive concept method:

•    Examples and nonexamples are given and the teacher leads the students to a conceptual definition.

4.    Directed discussion method:

•    Focus on teacher-student interaction. Series of questions related to materials facilitate students’ grasp of one or more principles.

5.    Exploratory discussion methods:

•    Focus is on student-student interaction. Teacher mediates a discussion between students that explores different view points based on documentation. May include role play.



  1. Do you feel that constructivist principles lend themselves to online learning? Why or why not?   


    Do you use peer learning activities in your practice?  If so, what have you found works and what does not work?



Congratulations! You have now built new knowledge of Constructivism.


Thank you for visiting and we hope our facilitation and discussion was useful. 





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