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Constructivist Learning Design

Constructivist Learning Design
Key Questions for Teaching to Standards

  • George W. Gagnon - University of California, Berkeley, UK, Prairie Rainbow Company, Oakland, CA
  • Michelle Collay - California State University, East Bay, USA, Prairie Rainbow Company, Oakland, CA

Foreword by Richard A. Schmuck

March 2006 | 256 pages | Corwin
Build student-centered learning into your standards-based curriculum and instructional practice!

Educators expect learners to solve problems, think critically, communicate effectively, and collaborate well. These complex processes require an approach to learning that is much more than memorizing facts. To truly succeed, young learners need to engage in active learning and understand that their own experience is the foundation for new learning. Constructivist Learning Design for the Standards-Based Classroom balances the required learning of facts and concepts with the hands-on learning of experience.

The Constructivist Learning Design (CLD) model uses six fundamental elements to provide a different way of thinking about learning and teaching:

o Situation: develop goals, tasks, and curriculum standards

o Grouping: group students and materials, and cooperative learning

o Bridge: recall prior knowledge using students' cognitive maps, skills, values, motivation, and expectations

o Task: use higher level thinking skills and problem-based learning

o Exhibit: arrange student portfolios and work samples

o Reflection: synthesize critical thinking and knowledge

With clear classroom applications and ready-to-use planning templates, this excellent resource will guide teachers through the complex process of aligning constructivist learning with standardized outcomes and goal-centered curriculum. Engage students in tasks, help them think for themselves, and support them in making meaning of their learning!

About the Authors
Introduction: Learning Design
Situation Section: Constructivist Learning Design

Groups Section: Learning Considerations

Bridge Section: What Is Learning?

Task Section: Learning Characteristics

Exhibit: Fairy Tales Learning Episodes

Reflection Section: Precedents for Constructivist Learning Design

Concluding Remarks: Where Do We Stand?

Chapter 1: Designing Situations
Situation Section: Defining Guiding Questions

Groups Section: Co-constructing the CLD

Bridge Section: Questions for Analyzing Situations

Task Section: Revising a Situation Element

Exhibit Section: Example Situation Elements

Reflection Section: Precedents for a Situation Element

Concluding Remarks: Thoughts on Designing Situations

Chapter 2: Organizing Groups
Situation Section: Deciding on Groups

Groups Section: The Power of Collaborative Thinking

Bridge Section: Questions for Forming Groups

Task Section: Revising a Groups Element

Exhibit Section: Example Groups Elements

Reflection Section: Precedents for a Groups Element

Concluding Remarks: Thoughts on Arranging Groups

Chapter 3: Building Bridges
Situation Section: Surfacing Prior Knowledge

Groups Section: Connecting With Students’ Thinking

Bridge Section: Questions for Structuring Bridges

Task Section: Revising a Bridge Element

Exhibit Section: Example Bridge Elements

Reflection Section: Precedents for a Bridge Element

Concluding Remarks: Thoughts on Building Bridges

Chapter 4: Crafting Tasks
Situation Section: Crafting a Task

Groups Section: Thinking Together to Make Meaning

Bridge Section: Questions for Framing Tasks

Task Section: Revising a Task Element

Exhibit Section: Example Task Elements

Reflection Section: Precedents for a Task element

Concluding Remarks: Thoughts on Crafting Tasks

Chapter 5: Arranging Exhibits
Situation Section: Defining the Nature of an Exhibit

Groups Section: The Power of Students Presenting their Thinking

Bridge Section: Questions for Encouraging Exhibits

Task Section: Revising an Exhibit Element

Exhibit Section: Example Exhibit Elements

Reflection Section: Precedents for an Exhibit Element

Concluding Remarks: Thoughts on Arranging Exhibits

Chapter 6: Leading Reflections
Situation Section: Leading Reflection on Thinking

Groups Section: Reflecting on Making Meaning

Bridge Section: Questions for Inviting Reflections

Task Section: Revising a Reflection Element

Exhibit Section: Example Reflection Elements

Reflection Section: Precedents for a Reflection Element

Concluding Remarks: Thoughts on Leading Reflections

Chapter 7: Teaching Designs
Dancing a Design

Pacing, Rhythm, and Footwork

Choosing Music for the Dance

Rehearsing the Dance

A Tale of Three Dancers

Dancing Together

Inviting Administrators to the Dance

Inviting Others to the Dance


"A very useful contribution to the field. . . . Provides a model that even the newest of teachers can use." 

Geraldine Lefoe
Senior Lecturer, Centre for Educational Development and Interactive Resources, University of Wollongong, NSW Australia

"Provides a structured format for helping teachers design constructivist learning opportunities. . . There are a lot of useful strategies here for teachers and good examples throughout." 

Bruce Marlowe, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology and Special Education
Roger Williams University

"Provides sound advice on many matters, including how to establish a teaching "situation," how and why to group students, how to "hook" students and draw on their interests and past experiences, and how to promote authentic exhibits of their learning."

Clive Beck
Professor, Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, OISE/University of Toronto, Canada

"Very practical and user-friendly. ..This book presents a very clear set of directions and plans for instituting a new way to think about teaching and learning on a very detailed and moment-to-moment basis. The ideas are also grounded in theory and the connections between theory and practice are made explicit."

Linda R. Kroll, Professor
Department of Education, Mills College

"This book should be read by neophyte and seasoned teachers, by teacher educators in colleges of education, and by trainees in preservice programs.  It should also be read by school administrators for insights into how to improve teacher supervision and staff development, by open-minded behaviorists looking for alternatives to direct instruction, by liberal arts professors who want to learn how to teach so that their students want to keep on learning, and by parents with children in school or with children they are schooling at home.  For that matter, everyone concerned with formal education should read this book unless, of course, they already have signed the Faustian pact to search only after the qualities and techniques of authoritarian, direct instruction.

I invite you now to do as I have done.  Read this fine book three times.  Read it first for a general understanding of its concepts.  Read it again and reflect on your own practice.  Read it a third time to engage its ideas as you would engage dance partners.  Then keep the book at your side for reference to its many action ideas."  

Richard A. Schmuck
Professor Emeritus, University of Oregon

"The authors make it clear that this is not your ordinary lesson planning book. This is an interactive workbook in which Gagnon and Collay encourage us as readers to work through the design process by applying the model to our own subject matter, preferrably with a partner or as part of a group so ideas can be shared and collectively reflected upon."

Teaching Theology and Religion, July 2008, Vol. 11(3)

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