Constructivist approaches to teaching and learning have emerged from the work of psychologists and educators such as:

Jerome Bruner (
Jean Piaget (
Lev Vygotsky (

There are, however, two major strands of the constructivist perspective. These two strands, cognitive constructivism and social constructivism, are different in emphasis, but they also share many common perspectives about teaching and learning. Before looking at the differences between cognitive and social constructivists, it might be worthwhile to look at what they have in common. Jonassen's (1994) description of the general characteristics of constructivist learning environments is a succinct summary of the constructivist perspective.

Jonassen (1994) proposed that there are eight characteristics that differentiate constructivist learning environments:

1. Constructivist learning environments provide multiple representations of reality.

2. Multiple representations avoid oversimplification and represent the complexity of the real world.

3. Constructivist learning environments emphasize knowledge construction inserted of knowledge reproduction.

4. Constructivist learning environments emphasize authentic tasks in a meaningful context rather than abstract instruction out of context.

5. Constructivist learning environments provide learning environments such as real-world settings or case-based learning instead of predetermined sequences of instruction.

6. Constructivist learning environments encourage thoughtful reflection on experience.

7. Constructivist learning environments"enable context- and content- dependent knowledge construction."

8. Constructivist learning environments support "collaborative construction of knowledge through social negotiation, not competition among learners for recognition."

Jonassen's eight characteristics would be supported by both social and cognitive constructivists. There is, however, a difference in the emphasis these two strands on constructivism place on each of those characteristics.

Additional Information

An Overview of Constructivist Theories

Constructivism embodies two major perspectives, cognitive constructivism and social constructivism. This web page provides an overview of the constructivist theory by describing each of the prespectives invdividually.


The Practice Implications of Constructivism

Constructivism represents one of the big ideas in education. Its implications for how teachers teach and learn to teach are enormous. To date, a focus on student-centered learning may well be the most important contribution of constructivism.


Essays on constructivism and education

This comprehensive list on constructivism related essays on the World Wide Web is prepared by Collected by the Maryland Collaborative for Teacher Preparation.


Influence Spheres of Semiotic/Constructivist Theories

This web page summarize that constructivism is not a brand new theory but a holistic approach to the teaching and learning process developed by incorporating concepts from Piaget, Bruner, Vygotsky, Gagne, and Semiotic theory.


Classroom Compass: Constructivism (Winter 1995 Volume 1 Number 3)

SEDL is the regional education laboratory serving Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. SEDL conducts applied research and development, delivers training, and provides technical assistance to K-12 educators and decision makers. Classroom Compass, e-journal sponsored by SEDL, devotes the whole Winter 1995 issue to the topic of constructivism. Informative articles include:


Constructivism Web Pages

This web site provides links to web pages for those interested in constructivism.


Beyond the Individual-Social Antimony in Discussions of Piaget and Vygotsky

Standard discussions of the difference between Vygotsky and Piaget place a crucial difference in the proximal locus of cognitive development. For Piaget, individual children construct knowledge through their actions on the world: to understand is to invent.

By contrast, the Vygotskian claim is said to be that understanding is social in origin. The authors of this web page suggest that by and large commentators on the differences between these two thinkers have placed too narrow an emphasis on their ideas about the primacy of individual psychogenesis versus sociogenesis of mind while neglecting what the authors believe is a cardinal difference between them: their views concerning the importance of culture, in particular, the role of mediation of action through artifacts, on the development of mind.


Constructivist Theory

This web page provides a genearl overview of the constructivist theory for new beginners.


Instructional Principles for Constructivism

This web page describes how the constructivist approches are applied to the design of instruction.


Return to Homepage
Return to Cognitive Constructivist Theories
Return  to Social Constructivist Theories