What is constructivism and what types are there depending on the approach?

What is constructivism and what types are there depending on the approach?

Franco Brutti

Apr 13, 2023

Apr 13, 2023

Apr 13, 2023

What is constructivism and what types are there depending on the approach?
What is constructivism and what types are there depending on the approach?
What is constructivism and what types are there depending on the approach?

Although we’re not aware of it, in the world in which we live there are countless psychological and thinking theories that seek to define our learning process and that are applied in various fields. One of the most relevant and that has been most used around the world is constructivism, have you ever heard of it?

If you have, then surely you have a basic idea of the ways in which it can be applied in different areas of life.

But in case you haven't, don't worry, it’s normal that we’re not aware of the kind of educational process we are facing on a daily basis.

Although if you’ve ever had the feeling that you have learned things in a better way in certain spaces and in a bad way in others, then you can be sure that there are learning theories that work better than others.

Of course, there are so many that it’s impossible to talk about them all at once, which is why in this case we will focus on constructivism.

So, whether you know about it or not, we will take the task of explaining what you need to know. 

In addition, you will become aware of how our mental processes work and how those who apply constructivism in their areas of work manage it.

What is constructivism?

The first thing to take into consideration is that, in view of the different perspectives that constructivism has been given from its inception to the present day, it can be understood as a paradigm, a theory, or a current of thought.

In general terms, constructivism seeks to state that our knowledge and our personality are constantly under construction.

According to this theory, we as humans are in a constant social interaction that has an impact on various cognitive aspects.

Therefore, constructivism proposes that people should receive the appropriate tools to advance in whatever they set out for, as long as they are in accordance with their personal characteristics.

How are the types of constructivism applied according to their approach?

Of course, depending on the area in which constructivism is applied, we can find different variations that arise from this same theory.

That’s why it is important to understand how constructivism works according to the area or field in which it is being applied.

So, in order for you to be aware of the way in which this current can vary, we’re going to talk about the main types of constructivism according to the approaches in which they are applied:

Constructivism in education

One of the main applications that constructivism has been given since its inception is in the field of education, to which it arrived with the intention of completely changing traditional teaching models.

For constructivism, students are seen as individuals who are capable of developing their own learning in a dynamic way and it places them in a position where they are the active agent of their cognitive process.

Of course, in this learning process, students must be given the educational tools appropriate to their level of knowledge and their level of mental development.

This is where the role of the teacher becomes relevant and indispensable.

With slight differences, of course, since the figure of the teacher, according to constructivism, is no longer that of a person who dictates content without a previous basis and who seeks only that students acquire learning by memorization.

Instead, a constructivist teacher evaluates the previous knowledge of his students and gives them the tools they need to advance in their learning process, being a mediator in a participatory manner.

How is constructivism applied in the classroom?

Taking into consideration the way in which constructivist theory is presented in education, it is necessary to review how it is applied in the classroom.

The main distinguishing mark of the constructivist model is that classrooms become communicative spaces in which everyone is able to participate and dialogue.

Therefore, the idea that the teacher only explains and answers questions is left behind, and students are given a higher level of participation.

Based on this, teaching strategies must be centered on the students and have a relationship with their interests so that the learning that takes place is much more meaningful for all.

Constructivism in psychology

Within psychology, the term constructivism is also used to refer to a current of thought and cognitive development.

Within this field, constructivism follows somewhat the same theme that people are in charge of their own learning processes, but also of the perception of experiences and the construction of reality.

So much so that this theory tells us that there is no reality that is independent of the individual.

This goes hand in hand with the idea that we live life according to our experiences and contexts: it’s our way of seeing and reacting to these events that creates the reality we know.

Hence, each person has a reality of his or her own that is nothing more than a reflection of what he or she wants from the world around him or her.

Taking this into consideration, from psychology, constructivism is born as a counterpoint to positivism, since it views individuals as receivers of external situations that they cannot control and that, whether they want to or not, will forge their way of life.

Characteristics of Constructivism in psychology

In order to understand in greater depth how the constructivist approach is applied within psychology, it’s necessary to review some of the most relevant characteristics:

  • The theory starts from the interaction that man has with the environment that surrounds him.

  • People have an active organizational role in their own lives.

  • It works under the principle of functional adaptation that exists between knowledge and reality.

  • It takes into account previous experience and positions it as a conditioning factor of the learning that will be built in the future.

Constructivism in philosophy

Last but not least, it’s necessary to recognize constructivist philosophy, which has also been developing itself in recent years and which proposes a new way of understanding the world around us.

It must be remembered that philosophy is in charge of going to the basis of all things in order to try to give answers to questions that other sciences have not asked.

Therefore, the application of constructivism within philosophy states that the image of reality that we have defined is in a process of constant change.

This is because the representation we have created of our environment does not respond to reality itself, but to all the interactions we have with that environment.

This is why in the area of philosophy epistemological constructivism is usually employed, which doesn’t pretend to study reality as a fixed context, but as a variable in time that will always depend on individual interpretations.

Who have been the main representatives of constructivism?

The whole constructivist theory began to be put forward around the middle of the 20th century and since then it has been gaining such strength that many teachers, professors, or even company managers rely on it to teach people what they should do.

Of course, just as there are variations depending on the field in which it’s applied, there are also several constructivist theories that have been varying in certain aspects or adding some more data to the paradigm.

Today we know a great variety of authors who have been part of the creation of this theory and each one, from the perspective that he has given, has made this current a quite complete one.

However, of all the authors who have spoken about it, there are three who are considered to have made the greatest contributions to constructivism:

1. Jean Piaget

In first place is Jean Piaget, who is considered by many the father of constructivism.

He was a biologist, psychologist, and epistemologist who made great contributions to the area of genetic epistemology and who created a theory of cognitive development in which he explains the phases that all people go through to achieve complete physical and mental development.

Piaget states that, depending on the phase in which an individual is, he or she will acquire knowledge in a specific way and therefore must be taught in a certain way.

In addition, he placed great value on the way in which individuals relate to their environment and everything they learn from it.

2. Lev Vygotsky

On the other hand, we find Lev Vygotsky, who was also a psychologist, philosopher, pedagogue, and writer.

Vygotsky was responsible for developing the theory of social constructivism, from which the author understands this paradigm through social interaction.

This is how he states that our development can only be explained through the interactions we have, because depending on the society in which we grow up, the way we develop and the things we learn may vary.

3. David Paul Ausubel

Finally, we must also mention Ausubel, an educator, and psychologist who spent much of his life studying the constructivist paradigm.

In this case, we find the author who developed the theory of meaningful learning, in which he explains that people learn better if what is taught is related to what they want to learn or to something that is relevant to them.

Thanks to this, many teachers started to take more interest in what their students like and what they have already learned before, to make sure that the learning they are receiving means much more to them so they can keep it for the rest of their lives.

who have been the main representatives of constructivism

Can constructivism continue to be applied in the technological era?

The most interesting and striking thing about constructivism (and which is also partly what keeps people talking about it) is that it has managed to transcend time and continue to be a theory that provides many benefits to those who apply it.

Even today, when virtuality has been applied to the classroom, constructivism is still very applicable.

So much so that there are some professionals who claim that this is the best time to apply constructivism.

In the digital era in which we live, we can search for any kind of information we want to learn about and all this is within reach with a click.

That’s why, thanks to the existence of informative technological tools, teachers can make use of them to enable students to develop a much freer and more self-taught learning, which fits well with the constructivist vision.

Thus, it’s up to teachers to find books, web articles, videos, or even podcasts in which the topics of the classes are well explained to make them reach the students.

It’s also up to the teachers to encourage their students to use these technological tools correctly for their learning.

Surely now that you have a clear conception of what constructivism is, you are reviewing if you have ever been part of an educational process centered on this theory.

If so, do you consider that you have obtained significant learning that has marked you for life? Or, if not, would you like constructivism to be applied more frequently in the areas in which you work?