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Constructivist Learning Methods Analysis

Teresa E. Sampson

Trevecca Nazarene University at Nashville, TN


Constructivist Learning Methods Analysis

In this paper, I will provide an analysis of some of the constructivist learning methods.

The first section begins with an outline of the general values of constructivist learning. Next, I

will discuss the experiential learning and its relevance to adult learners. The third section

touches on the transformational learning process and its relevance to adult learners. Reflection

and transformation will be discussed next. The final section will elaborate on self-directed

learning in communities of practice.

Values Approach to Learning

According to Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner (2007), individuals make meaning

by interacting with people with higher skills so that they can learn about the culture and build

new knowledge on their new foundation. The authors express that learning the symbols or

language of a particular culture is done by being involved in the social aspect of the members

within that culture. For example, young adults learn from more experienced adults so they can

construct new skills and knowledge to be applied within the culture.

Experiential Learning in Adult Learners

This section explains experiential learning and its relevance to knowledge construction in

adult learners.

Kolb and Experiential Learning

McCarthy (2016) states that Experiential Learning Theory (ELT), as designed by Kolb,

describes learning as a process where knowledge is derived from transformational experience.

Kolbs ELT model has four stages for learning: concrete experience, abstract conceptualization,

reflective observation, and active experimentation (McCarthy, 2016). Kolb intended this

approach to combine experience with perception, cognition, and behavior (McCarthy, 2016).

David Kolb created the Learning Style Inventory (LSI) to explore how different individuals

approach the learning process (McCarthy, 2016). This tool identified styles of learners based on

their preferred method of learning: Diverger, Assimilator, Converger, and Accommodator

(McCarthy, 2016). These styles of learning can assist instructional designers or trainers with

how to teach certain individuals to maximize their learning potential.

Relevance to Adult Learners

Learning by doing, or active learning, has been proven to increase knowledge retention

and to improve interest in the topic (McCarthy, 2016). Students involved in experiential learning

also exhibit increased skills in critical and analytical thinking, communication and interpersonal

abilities, as well as improved problem solving and an increased desire to learn (McCarthy, 2016).

I learn really well on my own by just playing around with a piece of software. I have watched

several training videos on how to use software, but I dont fully understand until I actually start

using the software.

Transformational Learning Process in Adult Learners

This part of the paper includes some insights about transformational learning in adults.

Transformational Learning Process

According to Ross-Gordon, Gordon, Alston, Dawson, and Van Aacken (2015),

transformational learning occurs when a disorienting dilemma causes a change in the way we

think or perceive the world or the topic at hand. Learners come to a point where their current

knowledge is not sufficient to solve the problem, so they are forced to increase their knowledge

to resolve the issue. These transformations can include changes in our mind-set or habits. Our

points of view can be changed so that we can see from someone elses perspective.

Relevance to Adult Learners


Adult learners are constantly taking in new information and synthesizing it to reframe it

into context with their current knowledge. When we are exposed to new ideas, we process the

information and then relate it to what we already know and determine if we need to change our

actions or thoughts based on the result (Ross-Gordon et al., 2015).

Reflective Model and Transformational Learning

This section discusses the reflective model and its role in transformational learning in

adults. Ross-Gordon et al. (2015) state that, Critical reflection is central to Mezirows theory of

transformative learning (p. 54). Reflection has many positive impacts on learners. According

to Ross-Gordon et al. (2015), students become better listeners, they are less judgmental, are more

open-minded, and have an increased understanding of self. Learners that engage in reflective

thinking develop strategies to tackle problems with the new knowledge they acquire

(Porntaweekul, Raksasataya, and Nethanomsak, 2015). I enjoy reflective thinking exercises in

an educational setting because it helps to take what I have learned and apply it to my

experiences, which increases the value of the new knowledge.

Communities of Practice and Knowledge Construction

Setting up environments for continued learning and experience can be greatly beneficial

to adult learners. Ross-Gordon et al. (2015) ascertain that, Transformative learning is not

possible in isolation (p. 54). Communities of practice, such as a professional community, help

adult learners to collaborate with peers within the same industry or educational setting to learn

from each other. According to Boyer (2003), Learning is tied to our relationships with others.

Gunawardena, Ortegano-Layne, Carabajal, Frechette, Lindermann, and Jennings (2006) refer to

wisdom communities as being a safe environment that promotes trust, reflection, transformation,

respect, etc. The authors emphasize the value in having mentors assigned to those in

communities of practice that have lower levels of skill. I belong to three professional groups

where I have certifications. I am a Certified Cooperative Communicator (CCC) through the

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). When I was studying for my CCC

exam, I was assigned a mentor who I could refer to when I had questions or concerns. I am also

a Certified Key Accounts Executive (CKAE) through NRECA. We were recently assigned

mentors who had significantly more experience working with key accounts. I am a Tennessee

Certified Economic Developer (TCEcD) and belong to the Tennessee Economic Development

Council (TEDC). These three professional groups meet at least annually to provide training and

collaboration opportunities for each of us to learn and grow in our fields. These experiences are

invaluable to me and I am very thankful to have the ability to learn from others in these settings.


In conclusion, this paper analyzed various aspects of constructivism and how it impacts

learning. Constructivism is most effectively used in conjunction with prior knowledge so that

previous experiences can strengthen the foundation on which to build additional knowledge.

Learners reflect and build knowledge that transforms their future experiences and perceptions so

that they can grow and develop deeper understandings of the material. Communities of practice

are learning environments that empower students to learn by experience and construct new



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