Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do. : Oscar Wilde

Saturday, May 9, 2009

OK, So More About Constructivism

I found a discussion of constructivism in education that I find useful in funderstanding. Here it is on the left verbatim. I decided to try my hand at writing a parallel discussion of constructivism in career development. It’s on the right.


[Drawn verbatim from funderstanding]


Constructivism is a philosophy of learning founded on the premise that, by reflecting on our experiences, we construct our own understanding of the world we live in. Each of us generates our own “rules” and “mental models,” which we use to make sense of our experiences. Learning, therefore, is simply the process of adjusting our mental models to accommodate new experiences.


There are several guiding principles of constructivism:
  1. Learning is a search for meaning. Therefore, learning must start with the issues around which students are actively trying to construct meaning.

  2. Meaning requires understanding wholes as well as parts. And parts must be understood in the context of wholes. Therefore, the learning process focuses on primary concepts, not isolated facts.

  3. In order to teach well, we must understand the mental models that students use to perceive the world and the assumptions they make to support those models.

  4. The purpose of learning is for an individual to construct his or her own meaning, not just memorize the “right” answers and regurgitate someone else’s meaning. Since education is inherently interdisciplinary, the only valuable way to measure learning is to make the assessment part of the learning process, ensuring it provides students with information on the quality of their learning.

How Constructivism Impacts Learning

Curriculum–Constructivism calls for the elimination of a standardized curriculum. Instead, it promotes using curricula customized to the students’ prior knowledge. Also, it emphasizes hands-on problem solving.

Instruction–Under the theory of constructivism, educators focus on making connections between facts and fostering new understanding in students. Instructors tailor their teaching strategies to student responses and encourage students to analyze, interpret, and predict information. Teachers also rely heavily on open-ended questions and promote extensive dialogue among students.

Assessment–Constructivism calls for the elimination of grades and standardized testing. Instead, assessment becomes part of the learning process so that students play a larger role in judging their own progress.


Jacqueline and Martin Brooks, The Case for Constructivist Classrooms.



Constructivism is a philosophy of career development founded on the premise that, by reflecting on our own individual experiences, we construct our own understandings of what our life careers should be and what our lives should mean to us. We continuously update our understandings of these things based on new experiences or new ways of understanding. Career construction is thus the business of finding purpose and meaning in life and of bringing one’s career into agreement with this meaning.


There are several guiding principles of constructivism:

  1. Our life careers are the expressions of our meanings as individuals. Hence the search for a career path is a search for one's own purpose and meaning. It seems most natural to start the search for meaning with the issues that are of most pressing concern to the person whose life career is to be constructed (and in any case not the career developer!). (Notice, please, that I did not say that one’s work is the expression of one’s meaning. This is not true at all for everyone.)

  2. For a person to construct meaning she or he must make many connections—for her- or himself—amongst the many new and old experiences that relate to her or life career. The construction and comprehension of meaning is a fundamental purpose of career development.

  3. As career developers we can listen actively to clients to try to understand how they model the meanings and purposes of their lives, and how these things are reflected in their careers. There is lots of scope for interesting probing into how clients make these connections and how clients look for improvement or find satisfaction or frustration.

  4. We want the client to assume the rĂ´le of “expert” as far as his own life is concerned because it happens to be true. The task of the career developer is to support the client in improving her or his skills in personal construction work.

How Constructivism Impacts Career Development

Process–Constructivism calls for the elimination of one-size-fits-none approaches. Instead, it promotes making full use of the clients’ own available experience. As with constructivist learning, constructivist career development emphasises hands-on knowledge and experience acquisition.

Consultations with clients–Career developers find out what clients want to know: what is satisfactory or unsatisfactory about their current life career, what other career patterns appeal to them, and so on. We suggest ways of probing possibilities or ways of summarising thoughts.

Assessment–Most importantly career developers can support clients in continually assessing the effectiveness of their own processes. When a client seems to want “objective” test results we can learn the client’s reason for making the request and then administer the test. Having performed any testing meaningful to a client we can discuss results in the context of the client's search for meaning.

Incidentally I found the article about constructivism whilst trying out a new kid on the search engine block called scoopler. It’s in beta.