Introducing constructivism and the journey of discovery

Reading time: 8m

AuthorCathy SivakChief Quality Officer
Reading Time8 minutes

Introducing constructivism — an approach which places your employees firmly at the centre of the learning process. Constructivists see learners as active participants in their learning, constructing their own understanding and knowledge of subject matter through experience and reflection. In the workplace, this involves giving your employees the opportunity to draw on what they know, enabling them to explore and discover for themselves, and guiding them as they consider and reflect on new experiences or subjects in order to use them productively.

Discovery learning

According to Jerome Bruner’s The Act of Discovery (1961), learning is more effective, both in terms of long-term retention and understanding, if learners are actively involved in the acquiring of knowledge. Bruner believed that in order for learners to effectively acquire knowledge, they need to create meaning themselves by discovering relationships and building on their own prior knowledge. This is known as discovery learning, and it involves the learner seeking information to build their own bigger picture.

However, although constructivism places an emphasis on learner autonomy, or ‘learner-led’ experiences, this doesn’t mean that learners should simply be left to their own devices. Bruner emphasised the impact of others on learners as they develop their knowledge and skills, which means he’s often associated with a branch of constructivism known as ‘social constructivism’. Bruner referred to support from others as ‘scaffolding’ (Bruner et al., 1976). Scaffolding learning — for example, providing useful information or encouraging learners to work in groups rather than alone — helps guide learners when necessary whilst still giving them the freedom to create understanding for themselves.

Another key concept in constructivism is the concept of the zone of proximal development. This refers to the difference between what a learner can achieve independently compared to what a learner can achieve through collaboration or with guidance (Vygotsky, 1978). Vygotsky emphasised the role of the ‘more knowledgeable other’ (MKO). The MKO is someone with greater knowledge, skills or ability than the learner, who can help them realise their potential. Vygotsky recognised that the MKO wasn’t necessarily someone older, and that a learner’s peers could act as the MKO.

So, how do you take your employees on a journey of discovery?

1. Enable discovery

Thinqi’s smarter learning system combines the benefits of both the traditional learning management system (LMS) and the capabilities of the learning experience platform (LXP) to support how we learn. Curation and user-led experience are key capabilities that support a self-led journey of discovery. Other features include:

  • an open system to accommodate external resources
  • the ability for all Thinqi users to contribute their own content to the Digital Library
  • adaptive learning paths, with clear development pathways and personalised content recommendations
  • discussion spaces that facilitate inquiry, critical thinking and reflection via forums and real-time chat facilities
  • the ability to track learning outside of formal situations (with the help of xAPI)
  • the ability to track soft skills
  • the capacity for marked and unmarked practice assessments.

These features allow users to be active curators of their own knowledge, by letting them explore existing user-created resources and even create and add their own.

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In the context of an online community of learners, content in Thinqi is presented in the form of a repository of open resources, designed to be discovered and added to by learners through searching and sharing. These resources feed into the learning conversation and provide scaffolding to support understanding of a subject.

The benefits of being part of an online community of learners are also clearly seen in Thinqi’s ‘Networks’ feature, where users can collaborate with other learners, regardless of geographical location. In Networks, users can share resources and discuss their relevance and impact.


2. Encourage interaction and collaboration

Luis E. Romero, an MIT-trained economist, speaker and author, states that, “when a team develops a culture based on humility, hard work, excellence and learning, its members become able to translate both their victories and their failures into inputs for continuous improvement.” He also highlights that in doing so, each team member will also benefit from the opportunity to develop specialised skills that give the team a competitive advantage.

Romero has cited learning as one of the key factors in developing this culture; as the workplace moves away from formal classroom-based training, employees are seeking more informal opportunities to learn from their peers and mentors. The challenge of independent e-learning is isolation, so Thinqi is designed to give its users 24/7 access to a community of peers and coaches. This in turn enables them to share, reflect and discuss learning material collectively.

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3. Try scenario-based learning

Scenario-based learning is also often linked to constructivism. A scenario-based learning task is usually a description of events that a learner is able to imagine and engage with. They can vividly evoke a setting, an activity or consequences of a decision or action. Scenarios ask learners to use their existing knowledge and their imagination to explore a topic in context and come to a conclusion or decide on next steps. A scenario can be accompanied by questions. These require learners to participate and engage meaningfully with the scenario being described. The following questions are typical of those used to engage and elicit appropriate responses from learners.

  • Would you agree or disagree and what are your reasons?
  • What next steps would you take and why?
  • If this happened, describe how you would respond?
  • Do you have an alternative solution to the problem? If so, please describe it.

Thinqi’s ability to host a range of engaging multimedia — video, animation, audio and third-party content in its Playlists feature— means that scenarios can be easily brought to life. Construct a scenario by embedding multimedia in Playlist pages and follow-up with thought-provoking questions using a quiz template.


Adapt to the needs of your modern learners

Today’s integrated learning technologies are designed to accommodate a constructivist approach to learning design in a way that adapts to the needs of the self-led modern learner. With the right scaffolding and communications tools in place, learners can be supported throughout their journeys without the risk of losing their independence or becoming isolated, even from behind the screen.


Want to see how Thinqi’s cutting-edge features can make for a smarter workforce? Request a demo and one of our friendly learning experts will only be too happy to chat with you about your requirements. #ThinkSmart

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