Constructionism vs. Constructionism

The discussion on constructivism vs. constructionism made me recall an article I read by Ackermann (2001). Constructivism is a big thing in Instructional Design, and there are relatively few articles on constructionism. Here are the points that helped clarify my thinking:

Piaget’s Constructivist Theory is a way to see how children learn, at different stages of development, and how their ways of doing and thinking evolve over time. Papert perceives an overlook of the role of context, the use of media, and individual preferences or styles. To Papert, the projection of inner feelings and ideas is key. Also Papert was incorporating Vgotsky’s idea of the role of cultural artifacts (tools, language, people) as a resource for drawing out every person’s cognitive potential. Hence, Papert’s Constructionism focuses more on the art of learning, “learning to learn” and on the significance of making things in learning. The conversations with their own or other people’s artifacts can boost self-confidence, and facilitate the construction of new knowledge.

The other differentiation is about the kinds of thinking. According to Piaget, formal, abstract thinking is the highest form of intellectual development. Piaget revalues the concrete, the local and personal – situated learning. He stressed that alternative epistemologies are possible – and reclaims the deeply grounded, experience based and subjective nature of human cognition.

So Piaget’s Theory would be in interested in the construction of internal stability, or assimilation – how the cognitive system maintains internal structure and organization at different levels of development. Piaget’s constructionism looks at the dynamics of change. Intelligence is defined as in-situ, situated, connected and sensitive to variations in the environment. Empathy is at the service of intelligence. The focus is on how knowledge is formed and transformed within specific contexts, shaped and expressed through different media and processed in different people’s minds. There is a view of the fragility, contextiality and flexibility of knowledge under construction.

I have a question about constructionism vs. instructionism. Would constructionism be in tension with IST (Instructional Systems Technology)? I have been reading about this too, and would love to hear your views.

Source: Ackermann, E. (2001). Piaget ’ s constructivism, Papert ’ s constructionism : What ’ s the difference? Future of learning group publication. Accessed 20 Dec 2012 from


3 Responses to “Constructionism vs. Constructionism”

  1. 1 Kylie Peppler February 12, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    Good question — and perhaps I’m not as versed in the IST Discourse as I should be as I respond to this — but my sense is that Constructionism would fit well within IST although it would be a lens on and privilege certain types of tools/activities/practices over others. For example, from a constructionist viewpoint on technology, we would look for and try to design technologies that allow the user/learner to design and build from their initial understandings. So as we look across games and other media, software and applications like the Adobe Suite, KidPix, Scratch, etc. that have design at their core we could argue are more constructionist in orientation.

  2. 2 Kylie Peppler February 12, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    What do others think about adding this reading to our course readings?

  3. 3 sophiabender February 12, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    Verily, I know you’ve been thinking a lot lately about the tension between constructionism and instructionism. First, why do you think instructionism is so prominent in IST? And second, how do you feel you’ll be able to reconcile the two? Do you think IST should change? Can you change it? 😀

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