A Better Way to Teach

What is Constructivism?

As teachers, the beginning of each school year brings us students whose heads are filled with prior knowledge, ideas, and conceptions of the world. The constructivist theory tells us that students learn by experiences and interactions. When students encounter new information they can do one of three things:

  • adopt the new information completely and disregard their previous knowledge
  • disregard the new information and keep their previous knowledge
  • or they can accommodate their previous knowledge so that it aligns with their new knowledge


Constructivism in the Classroom

In “A Definition of Constructivism,” Paige Schulte expresses the importance of constructivism in the classroom and how it better fosters authentic learning. Schulte explains that a constructivist classroom includes:

  • student-centered lessons
  • a teacher who facilitates learning instead of telling students what to know
  • a focus on true understanding instead of memorizing solutions
  • active participation from students
  • shared experiences instead of just lectures
    • cooperative learning is often found in constructivist classrooms!
  • and an emphasis on hands-on learning
  • the use of the learning cycle

The Learning Cycle that Paige references in the article is a 5 step cycle commonly referred to as the 5 E’s. The 5 E’s is meant to create lessons that keep the student at the center of their learning and to keep them interested the whole time. Below is a video that briefly explains the 5E’s:

  • Engage
  • Explore
  • Explain
  • Elaborate
  • Evaluate



Schulte encourages teachers to break the cycle of teaching the same way they were taught by introducing constructivism in their classroom. She calls on teachers to put down the textbooks and incorporate videos, outside literature, and other technology to foster debate, interaction, and problem-solving to create authentic learning for students.

How Do I Incorporate it into My Classroom?


In the video above, the five examples of how to incorporate constructivism in your classroom have one thing in common: experience. None of the examples involve lecturing with a textbook and all of the examples promote learning and understanding through the use of hands-on learning, learning while using the senses, and interactions!


Which side of the brain looks more appealing to you? The right or the left? Incorporate constructivism into your classroom so your student’s brains all look like the right side.



Schulte, P. (1996). A Definition of Constructivism. Science Scope,20(3), 25-27. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/43179597


  1. Claire, awesome blog post. I felt that you explained how students use constructivism in a very clear manner. It is very important to think about the different ways students use their brains when it comes to gaining information. Not all students are willing to change their initial thought processes and ideas developed. This is most likely completely unintentional, but it must be addressed! This usually is a result of minimal experiences to the new idea being taught. The key is to provide multiple platforms for student to learn with; these platforms provide a new experience with a topic, which allows for students to think more about what they maybe don’t know yet. How would you–as a biology or chemistry teacher–work to make sure students can change their existing misconceptions into correct and accurate information? What types of activities would be beneficial? What sorts of activities may not be so beneficial?

  2. Claire, The picture of the brain caught my attention. I think we all need to remember how little of the brain is actually used when memorizing facts. The constructivist approach not only uses the left side, but puts both sides to work. It makes a lot of sense that keeping this left side in use keeps students engaged!

  3. Claire

    Great post! I want to start off saying that your tweet is so true. As teachers, we should encourage students to be fearless learners! Wrong answers shouldn’t be put down. Having teachers put down the textbook and incorporating more outside literature and videos is essential for students to understand the deeper ideas that are brought to the classroom. How are you going to make your students WANT to be active thinkers in your constructivist classroom? Your use of visuals and videos are great in this post!


  4. Claire, I really enjoyed reading this blog post. I like how you defined constructivism as well. That was a good way to start the post. You gave a good reflection of the article you read and it gave me a lot more information. I really liked both of the videos you used throughout the blog. You’re tweet was awesome too! I also really liked the way you ended the blog. If I could give you a suggestion I would maybe just add a picture to the top section just so it breaks up the words a little. My question for you is how do you think you will incorporate constructivism into your science classroom in the future? Great post overall!

    • Thanks Bailey! I think the 5 E’s learning cycle is so applicable to science curriculum, so planning my lessons out around the 5 E’s would make sure I’m incorporating constructivism into my classroom. Demos are a great way to get students engaged and interested right off the bat and there are so many science demos for the plethora of concepts I will teach. I think the biggest challenge will be making sure my explain isn’t lecture heavy and that I’m asking my students more questions and giving them the opportunity to share what they’re learning and their ideas.

  5. Claire,
    I loved this blog! It kept me interested the whole way through. Your tweet is spot on. So many teachers have their students scared to answer questions because of the fear that they will be wrong. I know that happened to me in high school, did it happen to you? What’s the point in doing that? Shouldn’t a teacher get their students eager to answer questions?
    I also like how you mentioned that all of the examples in your second video have “experience” in common. That’s the whole point of constructivism!
    Your last picture really beings your whole blog together. Our goal, as teachers, should be to get the student’s brains to look like the right side.
    Your blog really gives the whole picture of what constructivism is! Great job!

    • Thanks Katie! And yes, I was always really scared to raise my hand and answer questions in class and I think it hindered my learning in some way. I think if I would’ve been confident enough to ask questions I would’ve made personal connections to lessons and been able to understand concepts better. Today, I still have some professors that intimidate me from offering solutions so I still don’t raise my hand that often. I think criticizing students for an incorrect answer is a loss for education because incorrect answers actually show that there’s a miscommunication or a break in learning that needs to be addressed, whether thats for one student or the whole class. Asking questions and accepting ALL answers as important and valued is a huge part of being a teacher.

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