The table below illustrates the differences between the Directed and Constructovist models of learning.

  Directed Instructional Models Constructivist Models
Teaching/Learning Methods

Stress individualized work.

Have specific skill-based instructional goals and objectives; same for all students.

Teachers transmit a set body of skills and/or knowledge to students.

Students learn prerequisite skills required for each new skill.

Sequences of carefully structured. presentations and activities to help students understand (process), remember (encode and store), and transfer (retrieve) information and skills.

Traditional teacher-directed methods and materials are used: lectures, skill worksheets.

Stress group-based, cooperative work.

Have global goals such as problem solving and critical thinking; sometimes differ for each student.

Have students generate their own knowledge through experiences anchored in real-life situations.

Students learn lower order skills in the context of higher order problems that require them.

Learning through problem-oriented activities (e.g., "what if" situations); visual formats and mental models; rich, complex, learning environments; and learning through exploration.

Nontraditional materials are used to promote student-driven exploration and problem solving.

Assessment Methods Traditional assessments (e.g., multiple choice, short answer) with specific expected responses; student products (e.g., essays) graded with checklists of rubrics. Nontraditional assessments (e.g., group products such as web pages, multimedia projects) with varying contents or portfolios; student products graded with self-report instruments, rubrics.
Instructional Needs and Problems Targeted

Accountability: All students must meet required education standards to be considered educated.

Individualization: Help meet individual needs of students working at many levels.

Quality assurance: Quality of instruction must be consistently high across teachers and schools in various locations.

Convergent thinking: All students must have the same skills.

Higher level skills: All students must be able to think critically and creatively and solve problems.

Cooperative group skills: Help students learn to work with others to solve problems.

Increase relevancy: Students must have active, visual, authentic learning experiences that relate to their own lives.

Divergent thinking: Students must think on their own and solve novel problems as they occur.


Breaking topics into discrete skills and teaching them in isolation from each other is directed more at basic skills than at higher level ones; students cannot apply skills later (i.e., knowledge is inert).

Learning is repetitive and predictable: students often find it uninteresting and irrelevant; lack of motivation leads to lower achievement and higher dropout rates.

Not all topics lend themselves to directed approaches.

Students cannot solve novel problems or work cooperatively with others to solve problems.

When students are allowed to demonstrate knowledge in varying ways, teachers cannot certify students' individual skill levels, as required by today's accountability standards.

Letting students generate their own knowledge is time consuming and inefficient; students may lack prerequisite skills to handle constructivist problem-solving environments effectively.

Not all topics lend themselves to constructivist approaches.

Despite learning being anchored in authentic problems, students may not transfer skills to real-life situations.