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6 Principles of Constructivist Learning

Walden University’s MS in Education degree candidates explore the key aspects of this P–12 teaching theory.

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” That popular adage helps illustrate the power of constructivist learning theory, a student-centered teaching model used in many P–12 classrooms.

“In the constructivist model, the students are urged to be actively involved in their own process of learning. The teacher functions more as a facilitator who coaches, mediates, prompts, and helps students develop and assess their understanding, and thereby their learning,” according to Concept to Classroom, an online series of professional development workshops.1

6 Principles of Constructivist Learning

Education professionals in the online MS in Education (MSEd) degree program at Walden University explore constructivist learning theory in the course Designing Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. In the course, education professionals examine classroom curriculum, instruction, and assessment in the context of standards and accountability. They explore learning theory, learner variables, and the need for differentiation to meet diverse learning needs.

One of the key course resources is Shirley M. Hord’s article “Professional Learning Communities,” published in the Journal of Staff Development. Hord shares the six principles of constructivist learning in the article, which is required reading for students in many of Walden’s online master’s in education degree programs. Learn along with Walden’s MSEd students in this excerpt from Hord’s article:2

The most common teaching/learning pattern for adults and children today emphasizes individual learner work flowing from an instructor’s lecture. This teacher-centered style, where the teacher pontificates about a topic or skill, is followed by directions from the teacher for the learner’s assigned application tasks. Changing this teaching/learning process from instructor-centered to learning-centered (whether for children or adults) constitutes a fundamental change.

The professional learning community models the self-initiating learner working in concert with peers. This is a constructivist approach. Our system is in need of change toward more constructivist views of the learning process (J.G. Brooks & M.G. Brooks, 1993).

As Linda Lambert notes in Leadership Capacity for Lasting School Improvement: “Professional development designs that attend to both teacher and student learning might use what I refer to as the ‘reciprocal processes of constructivist learning.’ By this, I mean learning that is mutual and interactive, thereby investing in the growth of all participants.”

Constructivism recognizes learning as the process of making sense of information and experiences. Learning constructively requires an environment in which learners work collegially and is situated in authentic activities and contexts (L.S. Vygotsky, 1978). In other words, learning is most productive in a social context.

In their article “Applying Technology to Restructuring and Learning,” Mary Burns, Marylu Menchaca, and Vicki Dimock identified six principles as important to constructivist learning theory. They are:

  1. Learners bring unique prior knowledge, experience, and beliefs to a learning situation.
  2. Knowledge is constructed uniquely and individually, in multiple ways, through a variety of authentic tools, resources, experiences, and contexts.
  3. Learning is both an active and reflective process.
  4. Learning is a developmental process of accommodation, assimilation, or rejection to construct new conceptual structures, meaningful representations, or new mental models.
  5. Social interaction introduces multiple perspectives through reflection, collaboration, negotiation, and shared meaning.
  6. Learning is internally controlled and mediated by the learner.

Advance Your Career With an MSEd Degree

An online master’s in education can give you the skills you need to become a respected leader in your school and classroom. And with Walden’s innovative online learning platform, you can earn a degree while remaining in your current position—putting your newly gained knowledge into practice immediately to benefit your students and school.

And because Walden’s MSEd degree program offers 14 specializations, you can expand your knowledge and expertise across a broad spectrum of P–12 career fields. Focus your studies on mathematics, science, or elementary reading and literacy. Become an expert in STEM education, classroom technology, or teacher leadership. And if you’re an aspiring principal, you can pursue an educational leadership and administration specialization.

Accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), Walden is the choice of over 65,000 students and alumni and over 150 state teachers of the year. Bring your talents to Walden’s community of excellence to earn a master’s in education online that can lead you to your highest career aspirations.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Education degree program online with 14 specializations, including a Self-Designed option, to help you meet your personal and professional goals. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.

2Source: Hord, S. (Winter 2009). “Professional Learning Communities.” Journal of Staff Development, 30(1), 40-43, 78.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,