Constructivist Learning Design Notes

by George W. Gagnon, Jr. and Michelle Collay

Welcome to our homepage for constructivist learning design. This page is a resource for teachers and students of teaching who want to apply constructivist learning theory to the design of educational experiences. Each of six elements in this design support student thinking, and combined together they represent a systematic way of organizing for contructivist learning. A Constructivist Learning Design Form is included at the end of this document for you to copy the single page format. See our Constructivist Learning Design paper for a more detailed description, or see our Constructivist Learning Design Study for a report on our collaborative research with teachers.
Constructivist Learning Design Outline

    1. Situation (you arrange for the students to explain.)

    2. Groupings (of students and materials.)

    3. Bridge (between what students know and what they might learn.)

    4. Questions (you will ask or anticipate students will ask.)

    5. Exhibit (of student explanations for others to understand.)

    6. Reflections (by students on their process of explanation.)



1. Situation: you are going to arrange for students to explain.

Title and describe this situation as a process of solving problems, answering questions, creating metaphors, making decisions, drawing conclusions, or setting goals.

  • What do you expect the students to do?
  • How will students make their own meaning? Outline

2. Groupings: of students (A) and materials (B).

  • A. Groupings of students as either whole class, individuals, or in collaborative learning teams of two, three, four, five, or more.
  • B. Groupings of materials that students are going to need to explain the situation by physically modeling, graphically representing, numerically describing, or reflectively writing their individual and collective experience. Outline

3. Bridge: between what your students already know and what they might learn by explaining the situation.

  • Solve a simple problem.
  • Have a group discussion.
  • Play a game or simulation.
  • Brainstorm a list. Outline

4. Questions: to introduce the situation and to keep thinking going.

  • What question will set up a bridge to the situation?
  • What questions will set up the situation for students to explain?
  • What questions do you expect students to ask, and how will you respond to encourage them to continue thinking for themselves? Outline

5. Exhibit: students make for others of how they recorded their explanation.

  • Write a description on cards and give a verbal presentation.
  • Draw out a graph, a chart, or a visual representation.
  • Act out or role play their impressions.
  • Construct a physical representation with models.
  • Video tape, photographs, or audio tape for display. Outline
6. Reflections: on what students were thinking while explaining the situation.
  • What did students remember from their thought process about:
    • Feelings in their spirit;
    • Images in their imagination; and
    • Languages in their internal dialogue.
  • What attitudes, skills, and concepts did students take out the door?
  • What did they know before; what did they want to know; and what did they learn?
  • What did they learn today that they won't forget tomorrow? Outline

Constructivist Learning Design

Title: Date:


1. Situation:

2. Groupings:

3. Bridge:

4. Questions:

5. Exhibit:

6: Reflections:

For a detailed description of our Constructivist Learning Design follow this link:

Constructivist Learning Design

For a description of our Constructivist Learning Design research follow this link:

Constructivist Learning Design Study