The Building Blocks of Teaching & Learning: “Social Constructivism”

social constructivism

“Learning in its simplest form is embedded in human existence…it is an active process in which the learner uses sensory inputs and constructs meaning out of the information being passed across (Driver, 1989). Learning is a social activity; it is intimately associated with the human connection with other human beings…” (Oluwafisayo, 2010)

Constructivism as a theory dictates that knowledge is constructed and built upon the previous knowledge that a person has already acquired. Social constructivism, as is suggested through its title, branches from the general constructivist theory, and interprets learning as a social construct whereby a person learns and acquires new knowledge through their social interactions with others, and meaning is gathered and interpreted from their experiences. This implies that knowledge between two people differ: “the mind produces its own, unique conception of events.” (Leidner & Jarvenpaa, 1995, in Oluwafissayo, 2010) This process is deemed as an active and constructive process.

Constructivism implemented as a teaching style or method in a classroom context, can produce the following benefits:

  • Students learn to become self-directed learners with initiative, as not only are they learning the content, but they are also learning about their learning (otherwise referred to as metacognition). Students therefore as a result become independent, as well as collaborative, and active learners.
  • Knowledge constructed can be applied to the reality of the students’ contexts, that is, knowledge becomes relevant to their lives beyond the classroom context.
  • Constructivism, especially inked with Personal Learning Environments, cater for different learning abilities, needs and styles of students. Learning can be tapered to student interest and also allows for differentiation to occur.

Social constructivism at its core, recognises that learning occurs at different moments of one’s life, not just within a classroom setting, and that the teacher is not the only source of information or knowledge for students. This is why social constructivism as an educational tool, is beneficial when used in the classroom, as it incorporates different elements and situations of learning, and then builds upon these.


Kelm, O. R. () “Social Media: It’s What Students Do.” Business Communication Quarterly 74(4), 505-520

Killen, R. (2013) Effective Teaching Strategies: Lessons from Research and Practice 6th Edn pp.42-43 Cengage/Social Science Press: Melbourne

Marsh, C. (2010) Becoming a Teacher: Knowledge, Skills and Issues, 5th edn, Pearson Australia. p.211

Oluwafisayo, E. (2010)  “Constructivism and Web 2.0 in the Emerging Learning Era: A Global Perspective” Journal of Strategic Innovation and Sustainability 6(4), pp. 16-25.

Retrieved from: http:///

Woolfolk A. & Margetts, K. (2010). Educational Psychology 2nd edn Pearson Australia. Chp. 9 pp. 336-374


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