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Constructivist Learning Environments (CLE)



Modern constructivist learning environments are technology-based in which learners are engaged in meaningful interactions. Emphasis is on learners who interpret and construct meaning based on their own experiences and interactions. Therefore, if educators are to adopt a constructivist approach, they are now challenged to adapt and change instructional design strategies to actively engage learners in meaningful projects and activities that promote exploration, experimentation, construction, collaboration, and reflection of what these learners are studying.

The concept of constructivism emphasizes the student as being the “active learner”, playing a central role in mediating and controlling learning (Jonassen, 1999). Emphasis needs to be on student-centered learning that promotes ownership of the learning experience. Greening (1998) suggests, “where ownership occurs, active learning and regard for students’ prior constructions follow quite naturally” (p. 25). The Internet, World Wide Web, and hypermedia application programs, all hypertext based environments, are very quickly transforming how information is stored and retrieved and how learners collectively communicate, access, contribute, and create information and resources. Forsyth (1993) indicates that the growing demand and use of cognitive tools in education is “placing students and technology, rather than instructors and curriculum at the center of educational practice”, and that “learners will increasingly demand that the technology relate to their real world needs” (p.24).


Constructivist learning environments support project-based curriculum as an alternative to traditional teaching practices. There is a need for those educators involved with the design and implementation of hypertext learning programs and applications to be philosophically aware and appropriately trained in their effective use. Spiro, Feltovich, Jacobson, and Coulson (1991) state that too much of the development of hypertext learning applications is driven by intuition and the technology itself, and that there is a need for theory to drive the application. Technology-based projects are showing that theory can effectively guide educational practice, but educational theory must be clear in the design of the environment.

Real world problems

Jonassen (1998) believes that learners should be presented with interesting, relevant, and meaningful problems to solve. These real world problems should not be overly defined, but rather ill-structured, in order to allow students to seek out a solution to the problem. There is no single right answer or single solution for a problem using this approach. Constructivist learning environments must be designed to engage the learner in complex thinking exercises that require reasoning and investigation of the problem to be undertaken. Student must construct their own ideas to make sense out of the

situation. Suchman (1987) refers to this as knowledge being constructed and understood by the learner. Effective searching on the Internet is a practical way to access resources and build on prior learnings. Greening (1998) suggests, “there should be purpose behind the initial activity such that experiences are given value” (p.31). ”