Theoretical Framework

Applying the constructivist philosophy of knowledge acquisition and learning in a clinical education program can change the way in which clinical nurses view nurse students and staff development opportunities. Constructivism is a philosophy about knowing and gaining knowledge, not a teaching practice in and of itself (Mastrian, McGonigle, Mahan, & Bixler, 2011). Constructivism proposes that individual learners actively construct their own learning based on prior knowledge, experiences, and interactions with their environment (DeYoung, 2009). Thus, making this philosophy ideal to facilitate and support learning, initiated and directed by the learner through active or discovery learning, in a learner-centered setting (Mastrian et al., 2011).

Using the constructivist theory as a conceptual framework for cultivating teaching and evaluation knowledge and skills will allow learners to explore old and new ideas through collaborative discussion and reflection and knowledge representation is open to change as new knowledge structures are added to the existing structure and connections (Billings & Halstead, 2012). Learning approaches grounded in constructivism, promote effective learning settings through personal, dynamic, engagement, and interaction. The model is a highly suitable pedagogy for teaching nursing because it expands on the learner’s existing experience and knowledge that is highly changeable. The constructivist learning theory assumes that meaning and value can differ for different individuals (Hunter & Krantz, 2010) and learners seek to capitalize on previous experiences, multiple perspectives, and opportunities to embed learning in a relevant social context. Iwasiw, Goldenberg, and Andrusyszyn (2009) state this theory holds that people build knowledge, in contrast, to merely acquiring it. Once we become aware we can begin to reconcile these differences, negotiate meaning, and continue to restructure our thinking (Hunter & Krantz, 2010).


Billings, D., & Halstead, J. (2012). Teaching in nursing: A guide for faculty (4th ed.). St. Louis, Mo.: Elsevier/Saunders.

DeYoung, S. (2009). Teaching strategies for nurse educators (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Hunter, J. L., & Krantz, S. (2010). Constructivism in cultural competence education. Journal of Nursing Education, 49(4), 207-214.

Iwasiw, C. L., Goldenberg, D., & Andrusyszyn, M. (2009). Curriculum development in nursing education (2nd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Mastrian, K., McGonigle, D., Mahan, W., & Bixler, B. (2011). Integrating technology in nursing education: Tools for the knowledge era. Sudbury, Massachusetts: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

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