By: Melissa Cook
Cognitive Constructivism Theory

The Cognitive Constructivism Theory of learning and teaching is based on Piaget’s beliefs that humans cannot be given information that they immediately understand and use.Instead, human beings must build their own knowledge and meaning through experiences.(Cognitive Constructivist Theories)

The definition of cognitive is the mental faculty of knowing, which includes perceiving, recognizing, conceiving, judging, reasoning, and imagining.( three areas of Constructivism are cognitive, social and radical.All three areas of Constructivism assert that the acquisition of knowledge and understanding is an ongoing process that is heavily influenced by a student’s prior knowledge.The Cognitive Constructivism Theory differs from the other two in the belief that knowledge is the result of the accurate internalization and reconstruction of external reality. (Doolittle & Camp, 1999) In other words, the external reality involved in Cognitive Constructivism is actually “learning”.It is consciously being aware of external factors and using cognitive skills to take these factors and process it internally with existing knowledge for new knowledge construction.

The four parts of Cognitive Constructivism as stated in the online resource guide of UC Berkeley are described as follows:
1)Knowledge – Actively constructed by learners based on existing structures rather than socially constructed or as a response to environmental stimuli.
2)Learning – Active assimilation and accommodation of new information on an individual basis rather than in a knowledge community.
3)Motivation – Learners set their own goals and motivate themselves to learn rather than relying on positive or negative reinforcement.
4)Instruction – An environment that promotes discovery and assimilation/accommodation rather than rote instruction or group learning.

Of the three Constructivism Theories, the Cognitive Constructivism Theory is the best approach for Career and Technical Education for several reasons.(Doolittle & Camp, 1999)

First, authentic experiences are essential in Cognitive Construction.A real-world, hands on approach is the concept of CTE.These ideals mirror one another.

Second, Cognitive Constructivism emphasizes self-regulation and self-awareness.This is more than simply entry level job skills.Employers want more than that from their CTE students and expect employees who have participated in CTE programs to have the skills of problem solving, self-motivation and self-assessment.

Third, in Cognitive Constructivism, the teacher performs the role of providing learning experiences for the students through which the students participate and extract and develop new knowledge from their involvement.This is precisely the role of teacher-coordinator in CTE programs.

Fourth, teachers in Cognitive Constructivism propel the learning experience through multiple perspectives.Giving the student several representations and routes from which to draw information and retrieve knowledge allows and encourages the ability to develop a multitude of ways to reach current success and future success.The combination of classroom instruction and training stations in CTE demonstrates this model.

Articles and resources discussing Cognitive Constructivism

Doolittle, P. & Camp, W. (Fall 1999) Constructivism:The Career and Technical Education Perspective, Journal of Vocational and Technical Education, Volume 16, Number 1.Retrieved July 18, 2009, from

Cognitive Constructivist Theories.Retrieved July 19, 2009,

Cognitive. (n.d.) in July 19, 2009, from

UC Berkeley, Online Resource Guide.Retrieved July 19, 2009, from