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Benefits and Criticisms

There are likely benefits to the above street sign; however there are certainly criticisms as well.

Educators know that student-centered instruction is one of the most powerful methods of learning. Giving students an authentic task with a ill-defined path to a broad goal is a wonderful opportunity for learning. Well defined laboratory experiments in senior high school science when guided by a knowledgeable peer or teacher make connections and increase retention of knowledge, skills and process compared to teacher-centered instruction. Ernst von Glasersfeld has a very poignant perspective on constructivism in the video below.

Ernst von Glasersfeld

The answer is not always the same in constructivist learning and as von Glasersfeld pointed out. This is one major benefit, but also looked at as one major criticism of Constructivism. A constructivist can relax at a social function as they do not have to defend their answers, because they are their answers. However, in many school systems governments are looking for quantifiable results. They are asking the questions and they do care about specific "correct" answers that come from the students. We are familiar with these questions and answers in British Columbia as the Provincial Exams. Many teachers of provincially examinable courses reduce the number of hands on student-centered activities because of the sheer quantity of knowledge which must be efficiently transferred within constrained timetables. Sage on the Stage instruction as in teacher-centered learning is by for, more efficient for transferring knowledge; however, the Guide on the Side method of student-centered learning is much more effective (Coombs, Chng, 2002).
Student-centered instruction is a key feature of constructivist learning practices. Stuart found that student centered instruction allowed for the differentiation of instructional strategies for every learner in a classroom (Stuart 1997).

Below are a list of Benefits and Criticisms of Constructivism

  • Encourages higher level thinking
  • Student centered
  • Actively engaged learners (Tudor 1996)
  • Offers differentiated instruction to all learners
  • Higher retention of learned material (Silberman 1996)
  • Gain in confidence of learner (Aaronsohn 1996)
  • Cross curricular integration
  • Development of problem solving skills
  • Use of authentic tasks
  • Self-management skills
  • Teamwork skills
  • Schema accommodation due to different perspectives from other learners
  • encourages diversity of thought
  • time consuming
  • expensive
  • inefficient
  • mix of other theories, no one clear theory
  • too subjective
  • learner must have a higher level of self-management/ maturity for success
  • unpredictable outcomes
  • difficult to develop authentic tasks
  • encourages diversity of thought where conformity is required

What have been your experiences, both positive and negative in using student-centered or constructivist practices whether as a student or teacher?

Please share your thoughts in the Experiences forum in Vista.


Aaronsohn, Elizabeth. (1996). Going Against the Grain: Supporting the Student-Centered Teacher. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.

Coombs, S, & Chng, V (2002). Educational Technology Learning Plans for Student Scaffolding. Instructional Design. [SITE 2002 Section], Retrieved June 13, 2008, from

McCombs, B. and Whistler, J.S. (1997). The Learner-Centered Classroom and School: Strategies for Increasing Student Motivation and Achievement. San Francisco:Josey-Bass Publishers.

Silberman, M. (1996). Active Learning. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Stuart, A. (Sep/Oct 1997). Student-Centered Learning. Learning, 26, pp. 53-56.

Tudor, I. (1996). Learner-Centeredness as Language Education. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.