Construct Your Understanding

What can make you a successful science teacher???  CONSTRUCTIVISM

Don’t know what that is?  Well, I’m here to guide you through the practices and theory of constructivism.

What is Constructivism?

Constructivism is a theory that many teachers put in place to help BUILD their student’s knowledge.  When learning new topics and ideas, students take in this new information and their brains try to relate it to past experiences or knowledge.  It is a teachers job to help facilitate in how their students can CONSTRUCT knowledge on what they know.

The Prepared Practitioner

This teaching theory is extremely relevant to the science classroom.  How students learn science needs to be connected to what they already know about living world around them.  So as teachers, it is our responsibility to build the bridge of knowledge between what they already know (or have some knowledge) and what they are learning.

In Constructivism and Conceptual Change, Part 1 by Alan Colburn, he mentions three possible results of the bridge gap in student’s knowledge and the possible outcomes.

  1. Assimilation of new knowledge in the science classroom will fit perfectly with what the student already knows.  This is because of their strong prior knowledge.
  2. If what students are learning doesn’t properly correspond to their prior knowledge, they will be confused and they will not be able to comprehend what is being taught.
  3. Students can take this new knowledge and work it into their working and long-term memory by reorganizing their thoughts and ideas.  By naturally making these connections from experience and learning is the ideal way to come about constructivist learning.

All students perceive what they learn in different ways, so as a science teacher, it is our job to help them make connections and build their knowledge.

Lesson Plan

Engage:  Allow students to research and find data on the outdoor water/grassland area.  Whether it is counting the abundance of certain flower species or collect water samples, students will understand the health of the certain ecosystems.

Explore:  Look at their data and samples from what they’ve collected outside, and predict from their observations what outcomes they might determine or discover.

Explain:  Students will create their own definitions of ecosystems, species density, and diversity from their own observations and data.

Elaborate:  How does species diversity and the health of ecosystems affect student’s everyday life?  The should use past experience and list experiences from the next week  about how vital biodiversity and the health of ecosystems is.

Evaluate:  Make a presentation about their findings and what they have learned from collecting data and talk about it in front of the class.  It will show their  understanding and growth.

National Science Teachers Association.  The Prepared Practitioner: Constructivism and Conceptual Change, Part I.  Retrieved from


  1. Michael, I think you did a great job with this post! I especially liked the video and how it was very informative about constructivism but also super cheesy which made it somewhat entertaining. I think you do a good job of explaining what constructivism is, how it works, and why it is important in classrooms. I also liked your lesson plan about ecosystems and getting the kids outside and engaged with their community. Is the entire engage section outside with the kids or are they doing any classroom research? I also think it’s important to remember to keep asking them questions throughout the whole learning cycle to help them fit the new knowledge into their preexisting knowledge. Great job!!!

    • Thank you Margaux! I’m not completely sure if I would want my engage to be outside because I think classroom research and discussion is also important to getting a basic understanding of ecosystems. And you are so right, constantly asking them questions to keep them thinking is essential to their understanding of content.

  2. Michael,

    I loved that the video you included in your blog not only described constructivism, but also gave examples and ideas of how to include it into your own classroom. I also really like your example lesson plan. I like that in your elaborate you have kids look at everyday effects of ecosystems from their past experiences but also the ones they noticed after the lesson. For the explain, how will you make sure that the definitions they construct on their own are right? Great job!
    – Claire

    • Thank you Claire! I really want my students to make relevant connections to the lesson because that will definitely further their understanding of ecosystems. And I will for sure check and have a class discussion on their self-made definitions. I want them to interact and cooperate first by making definitions and connections, but I will also guide them through their baseline knowledge as well.

  3. Hello Michael,
    I liked you post a lot! I like how you describe constructivism. I have a similar definition in my blog. I like your article as well. It really makes sense because if you do not build upon students’ prior knowledge, adding new knowledge may be confusing for them. When I think back in high school, the only reason I understood some of the definitions in biology were because I had previous knowledge about the natural world. I agree that to learn something new, you must have previous knowledge about the subject. Accessing this knowledge will help tremendously in learning new things. I think it is just how our brains work. It is how neurons tie together and make new connections. I like your twitter comment. Unfortunately for me, I am not very engaging sometimes. I talk A LOT! This semester, I will work on that. I will do less lecturing and be more engaging. When I first started teaching, the teacher that I worked with complained that I wasn’t enaging. Now I know what it means, but I am still learning. Being engaging is hard for me when I talk too much. Hopefully, this class will help me with that issue. Great post and awesome tweet!

    Delaina 🙂

    • Thank you Delaina! Don’t worry, you will definitely learn more and more about how to be an engaging teacher! Helping your students out with their prior knowledge and connecting it to what you’re teaching is a necessity! Getting students engaged with each other and the lesson is a great way to start your learning cycle! Never forget the five E’s!

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