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A Sampler of Different Types of Constructivist-Oriented Instructional Models




(Inquiry) Learning

As the name implies, instruction based on this particular model presents learners with a problem (or they uncover a problem within an exploratory activity), and the quest for a solution drives the learning experience.  Problem-based learning is an important characteristic within most “constructivist” instructional models.


Situated Learning

Instruction based on the Situated Learning model (Herrington & Oliver, 1997) generally include all or most of the following elements:

  • Provide an authentic context that reflects the way the knowledge will be used in real-life

  • Provide authentic activities

  • Provide access to expert performances and the modeling of processes

  • Provide multiple roles and perspectives

  • Support collaborative construction of knowledge

  • Promote reflection to enable abstractions to be formed

  • Promote articulation to enable tacit knowledge to be made explicit

  • Provide coaching and scaffolding at critical times

  • Provide for integrated assessment of learning within the tasks 


Anchored Instruction

The two fundamental aspects of instruction based on the “anchored instruction” model include:

1.  Activities should be designed around a conceptual "anchor" which should be some sort of case-study or problem situation.

2.  Curriculum materials should allow exploration by the learner (e.g., interactive computer programs).


Case-Based Learning

Case-based instruction focuses on “cases,” either real or contrived.  Initial information presented to the learners define the case itself, and free access to potentially useful ancillary information surrounding the case is made available to the learners.  Also referred to as “situation exploration,” student interaction with the case material doesn’t alter the case itself (like a simulation might)

Cognitive Apprenticeship

Cognitive apprenticeship instructional models (Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989) involve establishing a relationship between the learner and a mediated support system.  This support system, which might include a highly-interactive computer-based environment or structured collaborative group, generally includes the following strategies:

  • situated learning

  • modeling

  • explaining

  • coaching

  • reflection

  • articulation

  • exploration


Generative Learning

A more general type of instructional model than those previously described, generative learning represents any type of learning environment in which learner exploration leads to the generation of problems, information, patterns, and/or solutions.  Proponents of generative learning (like proponents of the grounded approach to qualitative research) criticize prescriptive ISD solutions for essentially eliminating the importance of learner constructions in the instructional process.


Discovery Learning

Like many of the context types described above, Discovery Learning emphasizes complete immersion into situations where learners have no choice but to discover problems, patterns, and solutions en route to successfully negotiating the situation.  Learner support within the situation can range from gentle, subtle peer or teacher coaching to more overtly direct information presentation when appropriate.

Open Learning Environments

Open Learning Environments (Hannafin, Land & Oliver, 1999) represent instructional situations where divergent thinking and multiple perspectives are valued over a single "correct" perspective.  OLE’s are appropriate when the learners are presented with ill-defined, and ill-structured problems.



Brown, J.S., Collins, A. & Duguid, S. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32-42.

Hannafin, M; Land, S. & Oliver, K.  (1999).  Open Learning Environments: Foundations, Methods, and Models.  In Instructional-Design Theories and Models: Volume II. Reigeluth, C. (Ed.).  Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Herrington, J. & Oliver, R.  (1997). Multimedia, magic and the way students respond to a situated learning environment.  Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 13(2), 127-143.

Jonassen, D. (1991). Objectivism versus constructivism: Do we need a new philosophical paradigm? Educational Technology Research & Development, 39(3), 5-14.

Papert, S. (1991). Situating constructionism. In I. Harel & S. Papert (Eds.), Constructionism, (pp. 1-11). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Rieber, L.P. (2000). The Studio Experience: Educational reform in instructional technology. Brown, D.G. Best Practices in Computer Enhanced Teaching and Learning (pp. 195-196). Winston-Salem, NC: Wake Forest Press. 

Thorndike, E. (1932). The Fundamentals of Learning. New York: Teachers College Press.



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This page last modified on August 09, 2002

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