October 9, 2020

Constructivism, What is it?

In constructivism the learner creates his own knowledge. Learnings are unique to the learner's cognitive process and experiences.

Thus, the development of the learner is more valued than the result of an exam or a task. A branch of constructivist, identify in social interactions the most influential aspect for development.

Learnings and assessment

In constructivism learning is a process of assimilation of external information and re-elaboration according to the learner experience or mindset.

In the practice of teaching, the learner is often assessed before and after the task or exam to perform. The assessment is not just focused on the result, but it defines the space of development. One of the main authors, Vygotsky identifies in the learning process a zone of proximal development, in which the learner supported by teachers or peers has the potential to fulfil a task or exam.

The learner overcomes the zone of proximal development with the support of peers, teachers, and the scaffolding system.

The scaffolding system supports students to concentrate on the task to perform. It can be the design of the learning environment or tutoring from teachers or peers.

Below an infographic of constructivism.

In eLearning platform

In e-learning systems, we can find examples of constructivist theory in practice. The app Duolingo shows examples of behaviorism and constructivism mixed together - you can find Duolingo and Behaviorism here-.

In this section, I show two aspects in which constructivist concepts are used in practice.

  • The social aspect in Duolingo is used as extrinsic motivation and as scaffolding since you can practice and challenge each other and you can deal with tasks with group support.
Extrinsic motivation
  • The placement test in Duolingo is the acknowledgment of the level of the learner. In this way, the app creates a zone of proximal development aimed to support the learner in succeeding in climbing up the level of difficulties of the app.
Placement test to define learner's level

How I use constructivism in UX

I am currently involved in a project on increasing hand washing practices in the African context. One part of my work is focussed on teaching when to wash hands and how to wash hands to users with a high rate of illiteracy. The app will be available in the coming year.

The app teaches when & why to wash hands.
  • Step 1, the learner get in touch with the basic correct behaviors of hand hygiene.
  • Step 2, he/her gets in touch with peers' definition of risky and safe behaviors with visual examples. The learner can ask questions, comment or react with emoji (learners are highly illiterate) to more experienced peers. The learner proposes his/her definition of risky or safe behavior and discusses or reacts with peers. Subsequently, the learner creates his/her risky/safe behaviors list, with pictures or drawings.
  • Step 3, the learner is fully autonomous and creates connections to build a learning community.

These three steps are built to allow the learner to understand the main concept and then build on his/her own knowledge.
The second step is built in such a way that the learner can reflect on his own habits and how much water can be dedicated to washing practices. Because, in African context water is very limited and the learner needs to reflect on when is the most effective moment to wash hands.

What part of constructivism am I applying?

  • Zone of proximal development: it is the learning space between understanding risky and safe behaviours and reflecting on personal hand washing habits. In this gap, the learner can be guided to identify with peer support what behaviors apply to his/her household.
  • Scaffolding: In step 1, the learner needs to identify risky and safe behaviour. If the task is too difficult they can tap the icon representing the behaviour and the system show  the correct answer to the learner. In step 2: the learner is supported by the system and by peers to reflect on his/her personal risky behaviour.
  • Social support: In step 2, the learner uses peers experiences as examples. In the step 3 the learner compares and discusses with other peers.



McLeod S. (2020). Lev Vygotsky’s social cultural theory. Retrieved from

Mc Lead S (2019). The Zone of Proximal Development and Scaffolding. Retrieved from

GSI. Social Constructivism. Retrieved from

UCD Dublin. Constructivism and Social Constructivism in the Classroom Retrieved from

Beaumie K. (2001). Social constructivism.

McLeod S. (2018). Jean Piaget's Theory and Stages of Cognitive Development. Retrieved from

Tucker C. (2017). Scaffolding in Microlearning.