How to Construct Your Classroom With Constructivism

In the article Constructivism in Classroom: Theory into Practice (1999), Naylor and Keogh explained that the “central principles of this approach [constructivist view] are that learners can only make sense of new situations in terms of their existing understanding.”

Does the current classroom structure align with this idea? The answer is no.

Our current education system sets the classroom structure, as to where students are forced to take in knowledge from the teacher, like an empty vessel.

Here’s a video that better illustrates how constructivist teaching would look like:

So How Can You Implement This?

The article describes an innovation that shows us how constructivist principles can be implemented for teaching. It introduces the idea of “concept cartoons.”

Let me show you how it works. In the example, we can see how the scientific concept “heat and cold” was incorporated into a familiar situation for the students. The conversation between the children can be seen as a form of a multiple-choice question, and they help to represent the misconception the student might actually hold. Now, this would definitely stir up a debate in the classroom as they bring up their own opinions on the idea.

See how that cartoon just gave us access to our student’s existing ideas? How it engaged the students?

That engage is where we start off to our learning cycle!

The 5 E’s

  • Engage: Establish Relevancy – help to determine need of learning new concepts
  • Explore: Present the Content – discover more about the topic
  • Explain: Improve Understanding – establishing definitions and explanations
  • Elaborate: Construct New Learning – apply prior learning and exercise skills
  • Evaluate: Assess Learning – measure how learning corresponds against goals

What Does It Look Like In A Classroom?

Now let’s see how that concept cartoon can lead into the learning cycle.

  • Engage
    • Engage the students using the concept cartoon – ask them who they think is correct in this case.
  • Explore
    • Let the students debate and raise their own thoughts and ideas – form their own hypothesis
    • By showing them the alternatives (misconceptions) you will allow them to recognize conceptual conflicts
  • Explain
    • Discussion based on students’ thoughts and ideas and come to a consensus by giving supporting evidence that explains the correct concept.
  • Elaborate
    • Students can do group investigations on different concepts raised by the cartoon – eg. properties of heat
  • Evaluate
    • The investigations can be used as a way to evaluate students’ learning.

Naylor, S., & Keogh, B. (1999). Constructivism in Classroom: Theory into Practice. Journal of Science Teacher Education,10(2), 93-106. Retrieved from

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