Foundations of Constructivism/Case Examples/Chapter 6.1

CHAPTER 6.1: Learning About Constructivism by Authoring a Wiki Textbook



As a major theoretical framework and pedagogical system, Constructivism is a course topic offered in numerous graduate and undergraduate education programs in the USA and abroad. With the increasingly interactive and social capabilities of the web, educators now have more opportunity to practice the principles of constructivism in the classroom learning environments at all levels. This chapter section describes the course “Principles of Constructivism” which uses one of those new web tools – WikiBooks – in a course that enables the learners to actually learn about constructivism by experiencing constructivist methods.

Course Description


“Principles of Constructivism” is an online graduate education course at Webster University which aims to:

“… explore the history, theory and educational applications of constructivism. The course employs collaborative processes and learning community-based web technologies: Participants have direct experience learning about constructivism by doing and participating in the constructivist methodologies used in this course.” (Webster University, 2010)

The participants in the course are expected to be able to:

  • Demonstrate a working knowledge of the key principles of constructivism and constructivist theories
  • Author original articles that describe constructivist theories and their applications in the classroom
  • Adopt strategies to promote active student learning and questioning.
  • Design lessons that involve constructivist principles such as collaboration, student-centered learnng, authentic (real-world) problems and other creative thinking processes
  • Design pupil assessment strategies consistent with constructivist learning processes

The course is structured in an 8-week intensive term and organized into five modules.

  • Module A: Introduction to the Course:. Learning About Constructivism by Doing Constructivism. How to work with Collaborative Writing Tools (Wiki, Blogs, GoogleDocs).
  • Module B: Authoring Wiki Textbook Chapter2: Major Contributors to Constructivist Theory
  • Module C: Authoring Textbook Chapter 3-5: Constructivist Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment
  • Module D: Authoring Wiki Textbook Chapter 6: Case Examples of Constructivist Learning
  • Module E: Course Conclusion / Reflections are rethinking classroom learning.

Modules B, C and D involve authoring the chapters in this WikiBook. A team of two students work on a wikibook chapter. Both students conduct library research on their chapter topic and write notes on a shared “sandbox” document. GoogleDocs documents are used for this sandbox. One student is assigned the role of “initiating author.” In this role, the student composes the chapter or chapter section and posts it in the WikiBook. The initiating author also grades the Chapter Quiz taken by all the class members using the answer key created by the Quiz Builder.

The other student on the team plays the role of “editor and quiz builder.” The editor rewrites all references and URLs for the bibliography in proper APA format; and posts the bibliography section in the WikiBook. The editor also checks and edits for originality in writing in the WikiBook and composes chapter quiz questions and an answer key.

Upon completion of the chapter, other class members read the chapter and take the chapter quiz, which is reviewed and graded by the initiating author of the chapter.

In chapter 6, each student writes a case example of a course or unit in which constructivist principles are employed. This case example is a demonstration of the students’ application of the constructivist pedagogy into their own classroom or teaching environment.

Constructivist Principles and Pedagogy


The wiki textbook authoring process is suggested in the work of Cunnigham (2002), Watson & Others (2004), and O'Shea (2007) as well as in Webster University's experiences with wiki textbooks (Webster University, 2008, 2009, 2009a, 2009b, 2009c).

Wiki textbook authoring is consistent with the constructivist approach. According to Lepionka (2007), open content publishing “firmly supports and extends constructivist models of teaching and learning.” The following constructivist characteristics are applicable to the wiki textbook authoring project: (a) knowledge construction; (b) creativity and innovation, (c) critical thinking, inquiry and problem solving, (d) communication, collaboration, and community building, (e) Authentic (real-world) learning and assessment, (f) embedded interactive technologies, and (g) student initiative and responsibility provide a solid basis for this skill development.

  1. Textbook Authorship as Knowledge Construction: The fundamental concept in constructivism is that learning occurs through a process in which a person “constructs or invents” knowledge through his or her experiences in the world, rather than being a recipient of information. In this vein, the authoring of chapters in the WikiBook enable the students to likewise construct their knowledge of constructivism, rather than just reading about constructivism in an already published textbook.
  2. Creativity and Innovation. The emphasis on creativity and innovation is a hallmark of constructivism. Learning itself is considered to be both (1) a creative process; and (2) resulting in novel and creative outcomes. Authoring the WikiBook chapters is itself a creative process. Farrell and Tanner (2002) point out that that wiki textbooks show more "creativity and imagination of individual authors" rather than the formulaic and hierarchical authoring emphasized in traditional textbooks.
  3. Critical Thinking, Inquiry, and Problem-Solving The constructivist learning process is not passive: It capitalizes on the curiosities, interest, or questions that are meaningful to the learner. Student authoring of wiki textbooks is a high level writing task: It requires students to be continuously engaged in data gathering, organization, writing, revising and editing. Wikis foster immersion in the writing process.
  4. Communication, Collaboration and Community Building In constructivism, collaboration is an important part of the knowledge construction process. Working on problems and tasks with at least one other learner provides the environment for the necessary dialogue to challenge and form emerging concepts and ideas. Learner collaboration reflects the development and publishing of textual content as ongoing, dynamic and community dependent. The two-person or three-person team approach was used in this course as well as in in the Webster University class, Constructivism and Technology (2009). Wiki textbooks enable instructors and students to build a community of learners. Using a wiki textbook provides instructor and students an opportunity to reinforce the value of social learning emphasized in constructivism (Barton, 2004).
  5. Authentic (real-world) learning and assessment. Constructivism stresses that learning be in the real-world context rather than in the isolation of the classroom or ivory tower. Traditional textbooks and even some wiki textbooks could also be remote and isolated from authentic experiences. However, authoring wiki textbook chapters places students into the authentic publishing arena. The audience of their writing is not just their instructor or their classmates, but the real-world audience of peers, other professionals and experts, the WikiBook editors. Adhering to writing standards, WikiBook publishing guidelines, and digital ethics standards elevates the professionalism of the writing assignment. With the work is subject to immediate publication, public critique and review, the writing process becomes a living interaction in coauthorship and professional writing, editing and publishing enterprise.
  6. Embedded interactive technologies Various new social web tools provide interactive and communication capabilities that support the constructivist classroom. These technologies include wikis, blogs, podcasts, video and audio blogs, and social networking (e.g. ning, Facebook, Twitter). The WikiBook used in this course allows open viewing and editing of the chapter contents by anyone who can access the web.
  7. Student initiative and responsibility. Student initiative and responsibility are supported in constructivist classrooms. The team approach to WikiBook chapter authoring structures team members to coordinate their efforts on the authoring of the chapter and the chapter quiz. Completion of the chapter and the grading of the quiz items are dependent on each team member fulfilling their role assignments.



Wiki textbook authoring supports constructivist pedagogy in many ways. It goes beyond lecture notes, quizzes, and charts and graphs. Wiki textbooks provide support for interaction as students collaborate in their research, write, edit, and publish. They share knowledge with the general public as well as with classmates. Wiki textbook authoring enables students to assess themselves while collaborating, creating, researching, reading, and writing. From the research they do, students are inspired to develop multiple literacies and both critical and creative thinking skills.



References and Resources


Allen, D.W., O'Shea, P. M., and Baker, P. (editors) (2007) Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education, WikiBooks.. Available at:

Barton, M. (2004). Embrace the wiki way! [Electronic version]. Available at:

Boyd, D., and Ellison, N. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, History and Scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), Article 11. Available at:

Cunningham, Ward. (2002). Wiki: What is wiki Available at:

Cushing, Diane . (2007, May). Open for Editing. CGA Magazine, 41(3), 14-15. Retrieved October 16, 2009, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 1292249301). Evans, Philip and Wolf Bob (2005). Collaboration Rules. Harvard Business Review

Dede, C. (2008). A Seismic Shift in Epistemology, Educause Review. (May/June), 80-81. Available at:

Evans, Philip (2006)., The Wiki Factor. BizEd. January/February

Farrell, Joseph P.; Tanner, Danniel., (2002). "Textbooks." Encyclopedia of Education. The Gale Group Inc. Retrieved October 16, 2009 from

Groom, M. and Brockhaus, A. (2008) Using Wikipedia to Re-Envision the Term Paper, Educause Presentation. Available at:

Gordon, J. (2006). The World Wide Textbook. BusinessWeek Online, 20.

Ivers, K.S and Barron, A. E., (2002). Multimedia Projects in Education: Designing, producing and assessing (2nd Ed). Wesport CT: Libraris Unlimited.

Lamb, C. (2004). Wide Open Spaces: Wikis, Ready or Not. , Educause Review (Sept/Oct) 37-48. Available at:

Lepionka, M. E. (2007). Open access publishing. Retrieved October, 2009, from

Maher, K. (2006). Basic physics of nuclear medicine. Retrieved October, 2009, from

Chapter Quiz


1. Which of the following is NOT a characteristic of both constructivism and the wiki textbook authoring project?
a. They emphasize creativity and inventiveness.
b. They support student initiative and responsibility
c. They build individual student excellence and mastery
d. They mirror a real-life project, problem, issue or experience

2. The new “computer-assisted instruction” technologies (including computer drills and simulations) are among the effective new tools for practicing constructivism in the classroom.
a. True
b. False

3. In the wiki textbook authoring assignment, students generally work cooperatively with other students:
a. To research a topic
b. To write the chapters
c. To compose the chapter quiz and answer key
d. To publish their work.
e. To do all of the above.
f. None of the above. Independent learning, not cooperative learning, is stressed.

4. Explain why authoring a wiki textbook can be considered an authentic (or “real world”) experience.