How students learn

How students learn


Constructivist learning theory emphasizes the learner's critical role in their own learning. 

The idea of constructivism is that every student 'constructs' his or her knowledge and understanding by reflecting on their own experience. They make sense of their experience by forming 'mental models'. Therefore, when we learn, we are really finetuning and honing those models, to align to this new experience.

There are several guiding principles of constructivism:

1. Learning is searching for meaning. The aim is for the student to construct his or her own deep meaning, not just memorize the 'right' answers or quote somebody else's meaning. Therefore, teaching should start with looking at the issues for which the students are trying to construct meaning.
2. Real understanding means understanding the whole theory, the subordinate parts, and how they all fit together. 
3. In order to teach well, we must understand what mental models our students use to view the world, and what assumptions they make to support those models.
4. Assessment needs to be part of the learning process, so that it gives students feedback on the quality of their learning.

Information and image sourced from

Interesting resources

Brandon, A & All, A 2010, 'Constructivism theory analysis and application to nursing programs', Nurse Education Perspectives, vol. 31(2), pp. 89-92.

Candela, L, Dalley, K & Benzel-Lindley, J 2006, 'A case for learning-centered curricula', Journal of Nursing Education, vol. 45(2), pp. 59-66.