Group Contributors:

Tara Litherland, Elita Partosoedarso, Amanda Paul, Lauren Wood

Keywords: interpreting


This theory states that when people learn new information by connecting it with their past understanding. In this theory, learning is
  • unique to each individual depending on the individual's interpretation and prior experiences
  • contextualization which is based on building and creating knowledge rather than passively receiving information
  • "constructed" by the recipient who builds on the new information by using points of reference durrently within their scope of knowledge
  • impacted by factors such as culture, heritage, religion, morals, values, beliefs and contextualization
Learners continue to grow and test prior knowledge as they experience social interactions

As a theory, constructivism provides an explanation of an individual's behaviour in terms of
  • shared knowledge
  • linguistic systems
  • individual interpretation of group dynamics and perceptions of other member's perspectives
However, constructivism as a theory is inherently flawed when used as a theory to study human behavious as
  • it assumes that each variable being studied is discrete
  • there is no perspective to conceptualise or measure the interpretive processes that happens internally which is vital to the outward manifestation seen in human communication

Case study: building departmental excellence through creating conditions for development

Approach to building excellence at university that the prospective pulls in different directions be reconciled into an approach that works to achieve positive regard at multiple levels and requires a multi-dimensional program with high adaptive capacity.
1. Rewards due to excellence (high productivity & accomplishment)
2. Redesigned course syllabi that reflect general university expectations and implemented model programs for developing graduate students as teachers
3. Establishment of strong relationship with line administrators
4. Recruitment and development of outstanding young faculty in all areas
5. Build major areas of interconnected groups of faculty who could work together effectively-collective accomplishment vs. individual faculty stars
6. Involvement in multiple interdisciplinary engagements rather than single focus
7. Promote faculty development with special emphasis on young faculty
Constructivism helped shape an important disciplinary turn toward the centrality of interpretive processes in understandings of communication (Delia, 1999)

Application of constructivism in our own teaching & learning
  • Our communication style in teaching can be understood (or misunderstood) in various ways depending on the receiver
  • Our interpretation of information both in learning and teaching frequently contains bias based on our preconceptions
  • Important to understand both in teaching and learning that alternative opinions and understandings exist within a realm of knowledge and experience (observation = knowledge)
  • Final knowledge NOT the goal for student/teachers
    • growth in knowledge and understanding is the ultimate goal
  • We are ultimately & collectively responsible for our ideas


Delia, J.G. (1977) Constructivism and the Study of Human Communication. Quarterly Journal of Speech 63(1): 66-83
Delia, J.G. (1999) Building Excellence in Communication Studies: Illinois Speech Communication 1975-1995 as Exemplar. Journal of the Association for Communication Administration 28: 124-131
Learning Theories Knowledgebase (2010). Constructivism at Retrieved September 23rd, 2010 from