Frau's Blog

Constructivist Learning Theory

Posted on: May 29, 2009

Constructivist learning theory is based on students learning information that is meaningful to them. They can make their own presentations and projects and because the learning process is student-owned they will retain and recall the information. This is the learning theory that I find to be the most effective in my classroom. Students tend to remember the information that is applicable to their lives. In this week’s reading on generating and testing hypotheses, there are learning strategies that apply the these same concepts as the constructivist theories.

When I think about generating and testing hypotheses I immediately think about science class and the scientific method. The hypothesis is the anticipated outcome of the experiment and then the hypothesis is tested and you discover if your hypothesis was correct or not. In actuality, however, a hypothesis can be formed and tested in any subject for problem solving. My favorite example from the text is historical investigation, where students “construct a hypothesis for historical events for which there is no agreed-upon resolution” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski). This same concept can be applied in my German classroom, perhaps on the advantages and disadvantages of the fall of communism in former East Germany. While it is a common agreement that communism is bad, there are many East Germans that miss the former government, everyone having a home and a job, free education and more. There are multiple viewpoints that the students could research on this topic.

In relation to constructivist theory, students can research the topic and discover the viewpoint that they agree with, making it meaningful to them. By sharing this information with the rest of the class, students are also taking ownership of the information helping them remember it.

On a side note, the course text keeps referring to spreadsheets and Excel as effective uses of technology in the classroom. I must admit that I have very limit knowledge of spreadsheets and really do not know how to use them aside from making address labels! The text mentions not wanting to use class time to teach students how to use the spreadsheet, but rather using the spreadsheet to teach the student. I’m afraid that this is the one area that I am not very useful when it comes to technology.

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


6 Responses to "Constructivist Learning Theory"

History is a great way to develop skills in hypotheses development and testing. There are always two sides to a story in history. It frustrates me to no end when I see a textbook that only gives a one-sided perspective of an event. The analysis of historical events can give students excellent practice in developing theories and debating them with others. Another area where this is applicable is current events. I frequent a number of forums and blogs. Generally I go to the tech parts of these forums, but from time to time I switch over to the politics or news portions. I am always stunned by how differently people can view the same thing. There are always different conclusions being drawn and different theories being formulated. A teacher that could simulate that in his or her classroom could help a student develop a very solid skill set.

You make a very good point when you say that the learning process is student-owned when they make a presentations or some sort of projects. I agree and would like to add that when students work on these projects in groups, from my past experience, students encourage each other to bring out their best. I have seen students who did not want to actively participate; it was the group’s job to get that student engaged, not the teacher’s job. They had an ownership for their product and most of them were responsible.
Very nice post!


You mention that you do not necessarily feel very confident in the use of Excel. I think that as educators, it is important that we recognize our shortcomings and not just try EVERYTHING we can. I believe it is important that we make sure that a tool we are going to use in our classroom is going to be valuable, which means we have to be very familiar with them! I think your honesty in this matter is admirable!


You mentioned this quote: “Even though setting up a spreadsheet is [a] worthy technology skill for students to learn, content-area teachers don’t want to use class time teaching students how to create spreadsheets; they want to use spreadsheets to help students learn the content” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, p. 204).

I agree with the authors that teachers many not WANT to use class time to teach students to set up a spreadsheet, but in my opinion, we need to. It does not take a lot of time to teach basic manipulation of a spreadsheet, and once the students know the basics, they can “play” with a spreadsheet and discover other possibilities on their own!

Also, this comment seems to segregate technology knowledge and content knowledge, which is not right, in my mind. If it’s important enough for them to USE, it’s important enough for them to know how to create! Especially with something that has so many application possibilities, like Excel!

I do both in my class – I have 2 different projects that require the use and manipulation of a teacher-created spreadsheet and a year-long project that includes my teaching of basic Excel skills so the kids can create, maintain, and eventually analyze their own spreadsheet.

Spreadsheet software is one that is used in MANY businesses and I think if we all wait for “another teacher” to teach them how to set one up, the students may never learn how! 🙂


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

Stephanie, I am in the same boat when it comes to spreadsheets and Excel. I am very familiar with the programs and can teach students how to use them but I am still discovering how to use these programs so that students can learn concepts not just the programs. It is something that I too need to work on. The text gave some very good examples. My problem is computer access for my students. It is very frustrating and I hope this will change in the near future. Kristin

James – I also get frustrated by textbook, and even teacher, bias. I think it is so important for students come up with their own opinions and ideas and for a teacher or a textbook to only show one side of the story is not fair and it does not truely educate the student on the topic. I think a big part of having an opinion is researching and having information to back it. Researching this information should give students a well-rounded opinion of the topic.

Joseph – I think student-owned activities are very important. I think about how proud I am of myself when I create an effective and fun lesson and I know kids have to feel the same way when they create something great. I think that students really do want to show off their accomplishments.

Rachel – Yes, nothing like a little humility! My school just upgraded to Microsoft Office 2007 and there are training sessions on using the new Word, Power Point, Excel and so on. I think I just might have to attend a training for Excel alone!

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  • Stephanie: Thanks Cesar! It is wonderful to have such support through our cohort. I appreciate your comments and kind words.
  • Cesar Rubio: Hi Stephanie, You are making great strides in completing your GAME Plan. I'm so jealous! I haven't gotten mine off the ground because I don't know
  • Toni Malvestuto: I hope you have a better week this week. I know how stressful it can be when you don't have the resources you need at hand. I have also learned not


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