Instructivism Vs Constructivism

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All students have been in instructivist classes where the instructor used lecture-based teaching. While many learners can learn in this environment, recent studies on how the brain learns suggest that a more effective method of teaching is constructivism. An explanation of both theories follows.

Instructivist Learning Theory

In the instructivist learning theory, knowledge exists independently of the learner, and is transferred to the student by the teacher. As a teacher-centered model, the instructivist view is exhibited by the dispensing of information to the student through the lecture format. This theory requires the student to passively accept information and knowledge as presented by the instructor. While this method has been the basis of education for centuries, it does have drawbacks, especially in the online class.

Constructivist Learning Theory

In the constructivist learning theory, the learner constructs new knowledge through a process of analyzing new information and comparing it to previous knowledge. Student-centered, rather than teacher-centered, the constructivist theory is best exemplified by instructors who provide guidance, rather than spoon feeding knowledge to the student in the lecture hall. The student is is control of whether or not he or she learns, not the instructor.

Constructivism helps students comprehend how they understand or know a topic. Interactions with a learning environment provide the stimulus for learning through cognitive conflict as learners continually compare new knowledge with old knowledge and make a determination concerning which is more valuable. Building a model, designing a chart, and completing a project are all examples constructivist learning activities.


Most K-12 teachers use instructivist methods. First year, traditional college students tend to prefer the passive learning style that instructivist methods engender. However, non-traditional, adult students are more proactive – possibly because these learners have discovered that they are in charge of their own learning. They tend to seek out learning opportunities needed to enhance performance in their jobs and hobbies. By incorporating constructivist activities, instructors and course developers can improve student learning.

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