Cognitivism vs. Constructivism Venn Diagram

Here is this week’s offering. I can see we are using some of Bruner’s and Bandura’s concepts in our course in these ways:

  • The learning theories build on each other and we are encouraged to compare them.
  • Creating visual deliverables encourages us to structure the information in a different way.
  • We provide perspective and feedback to our classmates to assist them in their learning.

Example learning scenarios for each theory:

(Social) Constructivism: The Harvard Business School case study teaching method is facilitated by the professor. Students prepare for the session by reading a real business scenario and reflecting on some of the questions. The professor prepares the group discussion, which designed to allow the group to deepen understanding and build their knowledge on each other’s reflections. Part of the students’ grade is based on the quality of their participation in the discussion. (See the source below from the Christensen Center for Teaching and Learning for a comprehensive overview of the method.)

 Cognitivism: My son’s teaching team has recently introduced the Singapore Maths method for teaching arithmetic. They openly state in the orientation materials that the method is based on Bruner’s work, among other leading Western researchers. They sent the parents a lengthy orientation document and the method is significantly different to what I experienced as a child. These concepts stuck out for me:

  • Parents need to encourage self-esteem in the children and emphasise that anyone can learn math. It’s not just a natural gift some people have and others don’t.
  • If one child is picking up the concepts quickly, it’s no longer appropriate to allow him/her to simply move ahead to the next one and leave the rest of the class behind. Instead, the teacher has to challenge the student to explain how he/she arrived at the answer, and think of other possible ways to solve the problem. Then the student has to coach his/her classmates who may not be getting it as quickly. In this way the advanced student deepens his/her understanding and provides additional support to the other children.
  • Students are encouraged to draw arithmetic concepts with shapes as part of solving the problem, not simply rely on symbols. This is based on Bruner’s Concrete Pictorial Aspect method and helps make the concept less abstract. (See the Maths No Problem for a complete description of the method.)

Sources for Concepts:

McLeod, S. A. (2007). Multi Store Model of Memory – Atkinson and Shiffrin, 1968. Retrieved from

McLeod, S. A. (2014). Lev Vygotsky. Retrieved from

Smith, M.K. (2002) ‘Jerome S. Bruner and the process of education’, the encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved from

McLeod, S. A. (2016). Bandura – Social Learning Theory. Retrieved from

Christensen Center for Teaching and Learning. (n.d.). Teaching By the Case Method. Retrieved November 10, 2017, from

Maths No Problem. (n.d.). What is Singapore Maths. Retrieved November 18, 2017, from What is Singapore Maths. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2017, from

Sources for images:

Palmer, A. (1942). Carpenter at work on Douglas Dam, Tennessee (TVA). Retrieved from

Photographer Unknown. A Man Helps a Woman as She Takes a Flying Leap. Retrieved from

Photographer Unknown. Top Ten Innovations in Construction: Modular Construction. Retrieved from

Photographer Unknown. Breakthrough Autism: Success Stories. Retrieved from