Social Constructivism

Please see this post also.

Sociological theory of knowledge that applies the general philosophical constructivism into social settings. Wherein groups construct knowledge for one another, collaboratively creating artefacts with shared meanings. When one is immersed within a culture of this sort, one is learning all the time about how to be a part of that culture on many levels.

Lev Vygotsky.jpg

Lev Vygotsky

It is emphasised that culture plays a large role in the cognitive development of a person. Its origins are largely attributed to Lev Vygotsky.

Social constructivism has been studied by many educational psychologists, who are concerned with its implications for teaching and learning. Social constructivism extends constructivism by incorporating the role of other actors and culture in development. In this sense it can also be contrasted with social learning theory by stressing interaction over observation (Palincsar, 1998)

An instructional strategy grounded in social constructivism that is an area of active research is computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL). This strategy gives students opportunities to practice 21st-century skills in communication, knowledge sharing, critical thinking and use of relevant technologies found in the workplace.

Additionally, studies on increasing the use of student discussion in the classroom both support and are grounded in theories of social constructivism. There is a full range of advantages that results from the implementation of discussion in the classroom. Participating in group discussion allows students to generalize and transfer their knowledge of classroom learning and builds a strong foundation for communicating ideas orally (Reznitskaya et al., 2007).  Many studies argue that discussion plays a vital role in increasing student ability to test their ideas, synthesize the ideas of others, and build deeper understanding of what they are learning (Reznitskaya et al. 2007, Weber et al. 2008, Corden 2001 & Nystrand, 1996).

Large and small group discussion also affords students opportunities to exercise self-regulation, self-determination, and a desire to persevere with tasks (Corden, 2001 & Matsumura et al., 2008).  Additionally, discussion increases student motivation, collaborative skills, and the ability to problem solve. (Dyson 2004, Matsumura et al. 2008, & Nystrand, 1996).  Increasing students’ opportunity to talk with one another and discuss their ideas increases their ability to support their thinking, develop reasoning skills, and to argue their opinions persuasively and respectfully (Reznitskaya et al., 2007).  Furthermore, the feeling of community and collaboration in classrooms increases through offering more chances for students to talk together. (Barab et al. 2007, Hale & City. 2002 & Weber et al. 2008).



Given the advantages that result from discussion, it is surprising that it is not used more often. Studies have found that students are not regularly accustomed to participating in academic discourse.Teachers rarely choose classroom discussion as an instructional format(Corden  2001, Nystrand, 1996 & Nystrand 1996). The results of Nystrand’s (1996) three year study focusing on 2400 students in 60 different classrooms indicate that the typical classroom teacher spends under three minutes an hour allowing students to talk about ideas with one another and the teacher (Nystrand, 1996).  Even within those three minutes of discussion, most talk is not true discussion because it depends upon teacher-directed questions with predetermined answers (Corden, 2001 & Nystrand, 1996).  Multiple observations indicate that students in low socioeconomic schools and lower track classrooms are allowed even fewer opportunities for discussion (Corden 2001, Nystrand, 1996 & Weber et al., 2008).

Teachers who teach as if they value what their students think create learners. Discussion and interactive discourse promote learning because they afford students the opportunity to use language as a demonstration of their independent thoughts. Discussion elicits sustained responses from students that encourage meaning making through negotiating with the ideas of others. This type of learning “promotes retention and in-depth processing associated with the cognitive manipulation of information” (Nystrand, 1996).

One recent branch of work exploring social constructivist perspectives on learning focuses on the role of social technologies and social media in facilitating the generation of socially-constructed knowledge and understanding in online environments (Dougiamas, 1998).


Barab, S., Dodge, T. Thomas, M.K., Jackson, C. & Tuzun, H. (2007). Our designs and the social agendas they carry. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 16(2), 263-305.

Corden, R.E. (2001). Group discussion and the importance of a shared perspective: Learning from collaborative research. Qualitative Research, 1(3), 347-367.

Dougiamas, M. (1998, November). A journey into Constructivism. Retrieved from

Palincsar, A.S. (1998). Social constructivist perspectives on teaching and learning. Annual Review of Psychology, 49, 345–375.

Dyson, A. H. (2004). Writing and the sea of voices: Oral language in, around, and about writing. In R.B. Ruddell, & N.J. Unrau (Eds.), Theoretical Models and Processes of Reading (pp. 146–162). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Hale, M.S. & City, E.A. (2002). “But how do you do that?”: Decision making for the seminar facilitator. In J. Holden & J.S. Schmit. Inquiry and the literary text: Constructing discussions in the English classroom / Classroom practices in teaching English, volume 32. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Learning Theories website

Matsumura, L.C., Slater, S.C., & Crosson, A. (2008). Classroom climate, rigorous instruction and curriculum, and students’ interactions in urban middle schools. The Elementary School Journal, 108(4), 294-312.

Nystrand, M. (1996). Opening dialogue: Understanding the dynamics of language and learning in the English classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.

Reznitskaya, A., Anderson, R.C., and Kuo, L.J. (2007). Teaching and Learning Argumentation. Elementary School Journal, 107: 449–472.

Simply Psycology website,

Using Technology for Instruction and Assessment website

Wikipedia website

Weber K., Maher C., Powell A., and Lee H., (2008), Learning opportunities from group discussions: Warrants become the objects of debate. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 68, 247-261.

YouTube website visited on various occasions

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