Constructivist and Existentialist Education

Constructivism: Roles of Teacher and Learner

Posted on: March 14, 2012

The constructivist teacher facilitates learners' interactions with hands-on and self-directed learning activities.

The role of the teacher in constructivist philosophy is adapt to the learner’s needs and give them the freedom to construct knowledge for themselves. Each learner is considered as a unique individual, with cultural background, individual disposition, and prior knowledge influencing their learning. The teacher must consider all these factors, and then assist the learner in pursuing new knowledge and placing what they have learned into the context of their own lives.

The teacher should pay attention to two particular factors in assisting learners. First, they should consider the learner’s zone of proximal development, and give the learners the help they need in constructing new knowledge and meanings. Second, they should facilitate peer interaction and cooperation between learners, since the social and cultural context of learning is essential in constructivist philosophy.

Peer interaction and cooperation are essential in constructivist education.

While much of learning is self-directed, the teacher has a lot of work to do. They must ensure that learners have access to sufficiently challenging material to grow, but not so challenging that learners become hopeless and give up on their self-directed efforts. The teacher must be flexible and adapt to learners’ individual interests and needs. And the teacher must ensure that the environment is positive and supportive, so that students will feel emotionally secure and able to challenge themselves cognitively.

The role of the learner in constructivist philosophy is to engage and interact with the world around them, with peers, with authorities, and with educational materials. Through active engagement the learner constructs knowledge and meaning, observing how objects and ideas interact, and creating a cognitive framework for making sense of it all. The learner is often free to pursue their own interests, as long as they are challenging themselves and forming new ideas throughout the process.

Child in a Montessori classroom learns a variety of physical principles and kinesthetic abilities by working with cups, pitchers, and water. (Picture taken from

Learners are not in competition with one another: they are expected and encouraged to work cooperatively, sharing knowledge and perspectives. Learners may often take on the role of teacher in some area where they have particular knowledge, thereby both assisting their peers and reinforcing their own knowledge.

Giving students the opportunity to act as teachers is empowering and helps them take ownership over the knowledge they have constructed.


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