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Constructivist Lesson Plan Example

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Instructor: Jamie Stamm
Constructivism is a learning model that teaches through hands-on experiences rather than lectures. Learn how big ideas and overarching concepts that students engage on their own are staples of the constructivist method. Updated: 12/22/2021

What Is Constructivism?

Constructivism is a theory originated by educational theorist Jean Piaget. Remember him from your psychology classes? Piaget believed young children learn by doing, constructing knowledge from experiences rather than from adults telling them about their world.

Picture young children in a sandbox. As they scoop and shovel sand into a bucket, they're learning how much sand it takes to fill the bucket. Compare that to a teacher telling students, 'Seven scoops of sand will fill this bucket.' Which do you think will be long lasting and more impactful?

According to Piaget, and others who practice what is known as constructivist education, the method most likely to truly educate students is the one in which they experience their world. Let's take a look at how the constructivist model compares to traditional teaching.

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  • 0:04 What Is Constructivism?
  • 0:54 Constructivist vs.…
  • 2:48 Planning for…
  • 5:15 Lesson Summary
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Constructivist vs. Traditional Teaching

In the constructivist method, teachers provide learning experiences for students and give students the opportunities to think through problems and find solutions. They see student mistakes as opportunities to tailor learning and allow students to work with others. Curriculum is 'top-down,' emphasizing the big ideas and assessment is formative. Curriculum evolves as student learning progresses.

In traditional teaching, teachers give information directly to students and focus on one correct answer. They view mistakes as wrong and students work alone for most of the day. Curriculum is 'bottom-up', presented in parts with stress on individual skills, and assessment is summative, used to grade a student. Additionally, the curriculum is fixed.

As you can see, traditional teaching is based on predetermined ideas that students learn at prescribed stages in their lives, regardless of personal development. Teachers using a strictly traditional method follow a rigid plan of presenting information to students, allowing students to practice the material, then testing students on their knowledge. Constructivist teaching builds curriculum based on student interest and developmental level, guides students as they experience learning, assesses as a method to determine future teaching points, all the while encouraging students to think, explain, and investigate.

The fact is, however, that few teachers these days adhere to a strict traditional teaching model. You'll likely see your own practice as a blend of traditional and constructivist. Maybe you use both formative and summative assessments. Perhaps you're able to provide a wide variety of experiences for students within the context of a specific objective. Unless you teach at a school that has adopted the constructivist model, you're likely required to follow at least some traditional methods of instruction.

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