Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Constructivism in Practice

Constructivism is a theory of knowledge stating that each individual actively constructs his or her own meaning throughout learning, while constructionism is a theory of learning that people can learn best when they build an external artifact or something they can shape with others (Laureate 2009).

I believe constructionism is heavily reliant upon project based learning and group effort. “Project learning, also known as project-based learning, is a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real-world problems and challenges, simultaneously developing cross-curriculum skills while working in small collaborative groups” (Edutopia 2008). Challenging my students to face problems together, to meet their learning style needs through many different sensory inputs and incorporating technology are all significant to me as a visual arts educator in the 21st century. If students have the opportunity to collaborate with one another in a group setting, they can truly learn by shaping an external artifact along side of their peers.

“When students generate and test hypotheses, they are engaging in complex mental processes, applying content knowledge like facts and vocabulary, and enhancing their overall understanding of the content” (Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. 2007). Although this sounds scientific, I believe my students recently mastered this in my art room setting with a chalk mural they created as a class. After studying artist Eric Grohe, they looked at his three-dimensional murals and learned about basic perspective including foreground, middleground and background. Objects in the background appear very tiny, like in Grohe’s work, while objects in the middleground and foreground get larger respectively. When collaborating on one large piece of art as my third graders were, they had to problem solve where there horizon line would be and how large and small to make objects to keep their scene to scale. This required discussion, cooperation, creativity and understanding by all that were involved.

Edutopia Staff. (2008). Why Teach with Project Learning?: Providing Students With a Well-Rounded Classroom Experience. Retrieved March 22, 2010 from

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009). Constructionist and Constructivist Learning Theories. Baltimore: Dr .Michael Orey.

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


  1. As a science teacher, I always associate formulating a hypothesis with science class. However, other subjects could easily include it into their classes. The way you worked with your third graders on figuring out the perspective is commendable. If we begin introducing problem solving skills in the elementary years they will be that more advanced when they reach middle and high school.

  2. wlteachtalk,
    Thank you so much! I feel so privileged as an art teacher, that my area of interest has the ability to carry over into many different core curriculums of study. I am constantly encouraging my students to see how art is related to everything we do!