Constructivism asserts that learners actively construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world, through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences. Inspired by the work of Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky, this theory emphasizes the importance of active learning, where learners build their own knowledge through hands-on activities and collaborative learning.

Key Researchers

Jean Piaget
Radical Constructivism

Jean Piget believed that knowledge is created through the interaction between experiences and ideas. He developed the theory of cognitive development which outlines stages that individuals progress through as they grow. Piaget emphasised the processes of accommodation and assimilation in learning, where learners adjust their existing knowledge structures in response to new information.

Jerome Bruner (1915 – 2016

Jerome Bruner was an American psychologist who expanded on the ideas of Piaget and Vygotsky by promoting the notion that learning is an active process where learners construct new ideas based on their current and past knowledge.

Lev Vygotsky
Social Constructivism

Lev Vygotsky focused on the social aspects of learning, asserting that knowledge is constructed through interaction. He introduced the concept of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), which highlights the critical role of a More Knowledgeable Other, such as an instructor, in facilitating learning. Vygotsky also emphasized the significant influence of cultural factors on cognitive development.

The implications of constructivism for instructional design

Active Learning: It’s all about getting learners involved. Instead of just sitting back and absorbing information, courses should spark curiosity and engagement through activities, discussions, and hands-on experiences.

Connecting to Real Life: Learning becomes more meaningful when it relates to real-world situations. By incorporating authentic problems, we help learners see the relevance of what they’re studying.

Fostering Collaboration: Learning is often more effective when it’s social. Designing opportunities for learners to work together allows them to share ideas and build knowledge collectively.

Promoting Learner Choice: Giving learners some control over their learning paths makes the experience more personal. When they can make choices, they’re more invested in the outcome.

Providing Scaffolding: It’s important to support learners as they tackle new challenges. By offering guidance tailored to their needs, we help them gain confidence and skills, gradually stepping back as they progress.

Using Diverse Assessments: Instead of relying solely on traditional tests, we should explore various assessment methods that mirror real-life tasks. This gives a fuller picture of what learners can do.

Encouraging Reflection: Promoting self-reflection helps learners connect new experiences with what they already know, deepening their understanding.

Creating Flexible Environments: Learning spaces and resources should be adaptable to cater to different learning styles and paces. Flexibility can make a big difference in how effectively learners engage.

Leveraging Technology: Embracing technology opens up opportunities for interactive and dynamic learning experiences. It can facilitate collaboration and access to a wealth of information.

Being Open to Change: Instructional designers should be receptive to feedback and willing to adjust their strategies based on what works best for learners. This continuous improvement mindset can lead to better outcomes.

Strengths and limitations of constructivism in corporate training


Enhanced Engagement: Constructivist approaches promote active learning, making training sessions more engaging and motivating for employees.

Real-World Application: By focusing on real-world problems, training becomes more relevant, helping learners apply their knowledge directly to their work.

Collaboration and Teamwork: Constructivism encourages collaboration, fostering teamwork and communication among employees, which can enhance workplace relationships.

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving: Learners develop critical thinking skills by exploring complex scenarios and finding solutions, which are valuable in a corporate environment.

Personalised Learning: Constructivist strategies allow for tailoring content to individual needs and preferences, enabling employees to learn at their own pace and focus on relevant areas.

Continuous Improvement: This approach encourages ongoing feedback and reflection, which helps employees continuously improve their skills and knowledge.


Time-Consuming: Constructivist methods can be more time-intensive to design and implement compared to traditional training methods, potentially leading to longer training periods.

Varied Learning Styles: While constructivism is flexible, not all employees thrive in collaborative or self-directed environments, leading to potential disparities in learning effectiveness.

Assessment Challenges: Measuring the effectiveness of constructivist learning can be difficult, as traditional assessment methods may not capture the depth of understanding or skill acquisition.

Resource Intensive: Implementing constructivist approaches often requires more resources, such as time, technology, and skilled facilitators, which may not always be available.

Scalability Issues: While effective in small groups, scaling constructivist approaches for larger corporate settings can be challenging, as personalisation and collaboration become more complex.

Resistance to Change: Employees accustomed to traditional training methods may resist more interactive approaches, which can hinder implementation.

My scenario with constructivism as the central learning theory

A training program for project managers to develop skills in sustainable project management through a constructivist approach.

Active Learning Components

Learners investigate sustainability challenges (e.g. waste reduction) in small groups. They independently research online resources. Following this they collaborate in brainstorming workshops to share their findings and ideas and discuss potential solutions to the sustainability challenge. This will encourage different viewpoints and ideas.

Groups then design a pilot project to test their solution. This involves setting up the necessary resources, defining success criteria, and collecting initial data.

ZPD skills

Project Planning

Learners may have basic project management skills but might struggle with integrating sustainability principles into their planning processes.

With support from instructors or resources, they can learn to set sustainability objectives, identify relevant metrics, and create a project plan that balances economic, social, and environmental factors.

Collaborative Problem-Solving

While learners can work independently, they may lack the skills to effectively collaborate with diverse teams on complex problems.

Through structured group activities and facilitated workshops, learners can develop skills in active listening, constructive feedback, and consensus-building, allowing them to leverage different perspectives to enhance their solutions.

Data-Driven Decision Making

Learners may not have experience in using data analytics to inform project decisions, particularly regarding sustainability impacts.

With mentorship and access to data analysis tools, they can learn how to interpret data, evaluate potential outcomes of their project choices, and make informed decisions that align with sustainability goals

Scaffolding Strategy

Provide learners with background materials (articles, videos) prior to the workshops, to ensures a baseline understanding and allows learners to come prepared with questions and initial ideas.

During the workshop, expert facilitators guide learners through the process of project planning, problem-solving, and data analysis. 
Include activities where learners can apply what they’ve learned, receiving immediate feedback and guidance from the facilitator.

Social Constructivist Approach

This scenario includes several collaborative learning projects to encourage collaboration and knowledge construction, learners can engage in group projects which require them to work together to solve a common problem.
Groups research and brainstorm potential solutions, sharing knowledge and leveraging each other’s strengths. Then present their plans to the class for feedback, enabling a community of practice and continuous improvement.

Differentiation for Diverse Learners

By conducting a pre-assessment, instructional designers can understand learners’ prior knowledge, skills, and experience. This information can then be used to tailor instruction.
By using a variety of instructional methods, such as readings, videos, interactive activities, and group discussions, to cater to different learning styles.
And finally, additional support such as one-on-one support and additional resourcess, to help learners who may need more assistance.


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