14 Ways to Run Constructivist Activities to Enhance Peer Learning

Constructivism is a theory based on the idea that students learn new information by building on existing knowledge. People form their own representations of the world and incorporate new information into their prior knowledge as they experience and reflect on it.

With the opportunity to exchange new ideas and get exposure to diverse perspectives, learning becomes more collaborative and engaging. 

Here’s what we will be covering in this article:

  • What is Constructivism in education?
  • 7 Principles of Constructivism
  • What is the difference between a traditional and a constructivist classroom
  • Applying Constructivism in the classroom
  • 14 Examples of Constructivist Activities

What is Constructivism in education?

Constructivism as a theory can be successful in the teaching and educational process as students learn experientially rather than just from the textbook. Students are encouraged to use their critical thinking, deductive reasoning, and analytical abilities to articulate their thoughts and come up with solutions. 

The students gain knowledge through practical application and their own interpretation of the outcomes. There are numerous conversations and inquiry-based learning techniques applied to the process. Therefore, learning increasingly focuses on connecting ideas and applying concepts rather than simply ingesting information. 

Constructivism in learning theory becomes more centered on the actual application of the principles for the instructors. In contrast to the traditional learning environment, constructivism encourages instructors to take a back seat and let students decide which information is relevant to their learning. The instructors’ role evolves into facilitators guiding students on the concepts and encourage them to ask deeper questions.

7 Principles of Constructivism

Constructivism is a learning philosophy based on the idea that we create our own understanding of the world we live in by reflecting on our experiences. Constructivism is based on various guiding principles, which are as follows:

1. Knowledge is constructed

Knowledge construction occurs when students go beyond knowledge reproduction to generate new ideas. Students collect pieces of information and assemble them in their own special way to create something that is different and unique. 

2. Learning is an active process

In order to actively participate in their own learning and growth, students need to interact with their environment. Constructivism learning theory believes that each new skill we acquire improves our knowledge of other things in the future.

3. Learning is contextual

The constructivist paradigm of teaching and learning serves as the foundation for contextual learning[1]. Learning takes place when instructors can deliver information in a manner that allows students to create meaning based on their own experiences.

4. Motivation

A constructivist approach to motivation centers on the idea that each person has different inspirations. In order to activate students' minds and encourage their enthusiasm for learning, educators must know how to engage and inspire them. 

5. Knowledge is personal

The core principle of the constructivism method is that learning should be tailored to the cognitive stage[2] of the learner. Another way to look at cognitive constructivism is that an individual gains knowledge as a result of prior learning and experience.

6. Learning exists in the mind

Knowledge is a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information and expert insights. To practise knowledge management, students process information mentally through the processes of comprehension, understanding, and learning.

7. Learning and comprehension become progressively more organized

Constructivism in learning theory promotes experiencing self-organization and mental manipulation, and it encourages students to control their own cognitive processes. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, it has been seen that online learning tools help students comprehend the content better. The reason for this is that online learning requires 40-60% less time than traditional classroom learning[3].

What is the difference between a traditional and a constructivist classroom

In the following table we describe how a traditional classrooms are different from constructivist classrooms with a focus on student learning styles and skill building.

Applying Constructivism in the classroom

Students largely work in groups, and instuctors conduct debates with the class to help them construct their knowledge. The main focus in constructivist classrooms is on student questions and interests while building on what they already know.

The theory of constructivism also believes that the instructor’s job is to encourage inventions rather than to impart pre-packaged knowledge. The application of constructivism in the classroom revolves around the 5 Es:

  • Engage- Help in identifying the necessity for learning new concepts
  • Explore- Learn more about the subject
  • Explain- Building explanations and definitions
  • Elaborate- Utilize prior knowledge and practise skills
  • Evaluate- Evaluate how learning relates to the objectives

Problem-solving is the primary goal in a constructivist classroom. Students ask questions, conduct research on a subject, and use a range of resources to find solutions and answers using inquiry methods. As they continue to study the topic, students reconsider the conclusions they originally came to. Question exploration generates more inquiries as it helps students build a potential foundation for higher-order thinking and independent problem-solving.

14 Examples of Constructivist Activities

Lesson plans for a range of curricular areas can be created and implemented in several different ways using constructivism. Below are a few examples of the application of Constructivism activities in the classroom:

1. ILPE method (Investigating learner’s previous experiences)

To test prior knowledge, the teacher guides students as they brainstorm solutions. New ideas based on each student's prior knowledge and experience allow both the instructor and the student to better allocate their time and energies.

2. Directed discussion

The highlight is the one-to-one discussions between instructors and students are aided by a series of questions. It helps students to process the information rather than simply receive it which helps them connect to a topic and improve their analytical skills. 

3.  Deductive approach

The deductive approach can be explained using hypotheses that can be derived from the theory's propositions. To put it another way, the deductive approach is concerned with deducing conclusions from premises or propositions. It enables students to quantify concepts and generalize research findings to some extent.

4. Exploratory discussion

An exploratory discussion is a conversation between students which allows for various viewpoints to be talked about that gives them an unbiased and wholesome understanding of the topic. These discussions are mediated by the teacher who documents all ideas that are put forward.

5.  Inductive approach

When an instructor utilizes an inductive approach, they begin by gathering data on their topic of interest. After collecting a substantial amount of data, the student will get an overview of the data. At this point, the researcher is looking for patterns in the data and developing a theory to explain those patterns. The progress shifts from specific experiences to a more general set of propositions about those experiences.

6. Reciprocal teaching

Reciprocal teaching is a type of instructional activity where the students take on the role of the teacher in small groups or within pairs. In other words, students take up the role of both, the assessor and the assessee. It is a form of peer-assisted coaching that encourages students to instruct each other for better understanding and execution of the given task.

Find how educators are using Kritik in innovative ways to implement peer assessment.

7. Problem-based learning (PBL)

With problem-based learning (PBL), students learn about a subject by working in groups to find a solution to an open-ended problem. Students coming together to pitch ideas and create business plans to solve an ongoing social problem is a good example of PBL in the classroom.

8. Art

Constructivist classrooms are collaborative and learner-centered where learning is promoted via real-world context. Moreover, learning through art fosters student creativity by creating sustained, process-oriented art projects that enhance learning throughout the curriculum. As a matter of fact, students who study art quadruple their chance[4] to be recognised for academic achievement.

9. Cooperative learning

Smaller groups of students work together on a common task as part of the cooperative learning teaching technique. The focus shifts from teacher-centered to student-centered education as students are encouraged to identify the possible solution for the task at hand, rather than awaiting the teacher’s instructions. 

10. Observations

Constructivism in the classroom is not only based on tests but also on observation of the students. Learners generate their own questions and seek answers through research and direct observation, which refines their existing knowledge and helps them obtain new perspectives.

11. Using Cartoons

Students' reactions to cartoons vary depending on how they personally understand the content. Concept cartoons are extremely effective for topic visualization, active student participation, and idea justification that helps them discover scientific truths in their research. For example, Concept cartoons are primarily used in science education as learning and teaching tools to understand scientific topics.

12. Brainstorming

Student engagement and brainstorming sessions help to open the doors to creative thinking. Brainstorming encourages active problem-solving and focusing on a topic for contributing to the free flow of ideas. Students can draw mind maps, debate amongst themselves to weed out ideas to arrive possible solutions that could be tested out.

Learn how you can measure student engagement for large classes with peer evaluation via Kritik.

13. Field Trips

Field trips helps visual and experiential learners learn better. Incorporating learning outside the classroom encourages students to apply what they have learnt. 

14. Design Thinking

By exploring unbiased and incorrect solutions, design thinking pushes students to use deductive reasoning as opposed to seeking out definitive answers. This enables students to engage in deep analysis and internalize ideas and concepts. Concept-mapping is an example of this type of teaching in which you prepare a model to show your students how you identify the main ideas presented in a reading.

Check out some more ways to get creative in an online classroom!

Kritik as a solution for your Constructivist classroom!

Peer learning is instrumental in shaping students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills that are essential for them to succeed in the workplace. By implementing a tech-based peer assessment tool for your courses, your students can benefit from the boost in engagement, identifying knowledge gaps, and brainstorming new perspectives for enhancing their learning capacities.

Schedule a demo with our team today to get tailored solutions for your students.

References

[1] Tari, K. D., & Rosana, D. (2019). Contextual Teaching and Learning to Develop Critical Thinking and Practical Skills. Journal of Physics Conference Series. DOI: 10.1088/1742-6596/1233/1/012102

[2] Thompson, P. (2019). Cognitive Development: The Theory of Jean Piaget. Foundations of Educational Technology. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.22488/okstate.19.000002

[3] Khan, M. J. (2022). Facts And Stats That Reveal The Power Of The eLearning Sector. eLearning Industry. Retrieved from https://elearningindustry.com/facts-and-stats-that-reveal-the-power-of-the-elearning-sector 

[4] 11 Facts About Arts in Education. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-arts-education

Preeti Ravi
Content Marketing Manager

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