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Dilemma between constructivism and constructionism: Leading to the development of a teaching-learning framework for student engagement and learning

Mohammad Rob (Management Information Systems, University of Houston-Clear Lake, Houston, Texas, USA)
Farhana Rob (Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center, San Jose, California, USA)

Journal of International Education in Business

ISSN: 2046-469X

Article publication date: 5 November 2018

Issue publication date: 5 November 2018




This paper aims to provide a review of the two often-confusing learning theories: constructivism and constructionism. It then presents their similarities and differences by identifying various learning dimensions of the two philosophies. The authors then develop a teaching-learning framework that integrates those dimensions. The authors have also implemented the framework in two information technology (IT) courses and obtained students’ feedback that relate to various learning dimensions of both of the two philosophies.


The authors review existing literature to understand the difference between constructivism and constructionism and develop a list of learning dimensions that can be applied to classroom education. They then discuss the background information or tools necessary to develop a teaching-learning framework and apply that framework through a case study. They finally present the results.


A constructivist teacher sets up the learning environment for students that fosters individual learning and presents a problem to be solved, while the students go on their own way to produce a personally meaningful artifact without any further teacher’s intervention. On the other hand, the constructionist teacher sets up the environment for collaborative learning for students, then he or she defines the problem to be solved and the meaningful end product to be developed, and then guides them to reach towards the goal. Student assessment supports this difference.

Research/limitations implications

Researchers and teachers should look carefully which methodology they are discussing and which one they are applying. They can further the authors’ research in a different angle than the authors did by finding the learning dimensions.

Practical implications

Teachers should use constructionist approach to set up their classroom and guide their students throughout the course time, such that students can work collaboratively on a project to learn the important concepts to be developed. They should also use appropriate tools and technologies that enhance classroom activities and learning. Teacher should act as a guide/facilitator or a project manager to plan for the classroom/project and monitoring and controlling project/class throughout the semester.

Social implications

Understanding the critical differences between the two learning philosophies, educators in all levels should be clear how to set up their classrooms – from kindergarten to university education, such that all students can develop their knowledge not only through personal cognition but also through interaction with others. A collaborative environment produces knowledgeable people in the society with better understanding and respect toward each other.


Collaborative learning environment provides a better learning opportunity over personal cognition – a major enhancement in constructionism over constructivism. Sharing the creation process as well as the product, and the use of various tools and technologies in the development process, provide a better understanding of a subject matter. The discussions and results presented here might bring some insights to the instructors who might be contemplating to implement the educational philosophies of constructivism or constructionism, or intermixing of the two in their classrooms.



Rob, M. and Rob, F. (2018), "Dilemma between constructivism and constructionism: Leading to the development of a teaching-learning framework for student engagement and learning", Journal of International Education in Business, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 273-290.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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