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Compare a constructivist based approach to educational design and the traditional primary/secondary school approaches to educational design and delivery. Critically reflect on your own experiences of education. Make connections between your analysis, your past experience, your values and beliefs and your future practice as a teacher.

The purpose of this journal entry is to compare the constructivist based approach to education design against the traditional schooling approach to education design and delivery. In order to accurately assess these approaches, it is first necessary to outline their basic definitions.

According to Lev Vygotsky, constructivism is a theory of learning (and not an instructional approach (Vygotsky, 1978). Generally, Vygotsky argued that knowledge is a result of activities engaged and practiced in a social environment. Hence, it is clear that constructivists focus on the learner as being the central part of the learning equation. Applying this theory to practice, it is observable that meaning is established by each individual learner via their experiences in their own methods and abilities.

On the other hand, the traditional approach to educational design and delivery focuses upon the direct information flow from teacher to student (Savin-Baden, 2000). The effectiveness of this approach can be determined by putting forward various exercises for the student to complete. In this traditional instructional approach, students will answer questions asked by their teachers (Sungur & Tekkaya, 2006).

Some opponents of constructivism allege that students are unable to construct their own unique knowledge without the necessary background of experiences – something I have observed, too.  For example, I recall undertaking Physics in the HSC; I at no point prior to starting the course have any relevant experiences with the topic. On the other hand, Mayer, a stark backer of traditional instruction, alleges that the discovery-learning philosophy is misinterpreting the underlying meaning of constructivism. Alluded to as the ‘constructivist fallacy’ (Mayer, 2004, p.15), Mayer says that discovery learning experts assert that the sole path to encourage active learning is through active teaching. Conversely, Mayer’s stance is that constructivist learning can be achieved in multiple manners of teaching, including traditional instruction; not just unguided inquiry.

It can be seen that both approaches, have their own flaws and strengths, however, of more important is if how and when a middle ground may be achieved in the approaches to educational learning given the ever increasing impact of technology.


Kumar, M. (2006). Constructivist Epistemology in Action. The Journal of Educational Thought, 40(3), 247-261.

Mayer, R (2004).Should there be a three-strikes rule against pure discovery learning? The case for guided methods of instruction. American Psychologist. 59, 14-19.

Savin-Baden M. (2000) Problem-based Learning in Higher Education: Untold Stories, SRHE and Open University Press.

Sungur, S, & Tekkaya, C (2006). Effects of problem-based learning and traditional instruction on self-regulated learning. The Journal of Educational Research. 99, 307-317.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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