Social Education
Volume 62 Number 1
January 1998

Resources for Constructivist Teaching

Michael M. Yell and Geoffrey Scheurman

This list includes books that illustrate active teaching strategies and more general works on the philosophical bases for constructivism.

Armstrong, T. Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1994.
This author expands on the work of Howard Gardner by offering a relevant catalog of practical ideas for incorporating multiple intelligence theory into everyday classroom situations. Included are chapters on curriculum development, classroom management, assessment, special education, and more.

Bower, B., J. Lobdell, and L. Swenson. History Alive! Engaging All Learners in the Diverse Classroom. New York: Addison-Wesley, 1994.
This is an excellent source of active learning strategies for teaching social studies (although the clear emphasis is on teaching history, the strategies are applicable to other social studies disciplines). The authors have developed six teaching strategies: “interactive slide lecture,” “response groups,” “experiential exercise,” “social studies skill builders,” “writing for understanding,” and “problem solving groupwork.” The book also deals at length with student notebooks and alternative assessments.
TCI sells curriculum units and conducts training sessions. Contact: (800) 497-6138. In February, they will have a website at

Brooks, J., and M. Brooks. In Search for Understanding: The Case for Constructivist Classrooms. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1994.
This book does not offer teaching strategies as such, but does provide an excellent discussion of the constructivist movement in education.

Bruce, W., and J. Bruce. Teaching Social Studies with Discrepant Event Inquiry. Annapolis, Md.: Alpha Publishing Co., 1992.
This book explains the inquiry strategy and provides examples of more than 70 social studies inquiries. They are grouped by social studies discipline (e.g., history, anthropology, geography).

Davidson, J. W., and M. H. Lytle. After the Fact: The Art of Historical Detection. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1986.
For the teacher seeking to understand how historians construct knowledge—including the subtleties, complexities, and excitement of disciplined inquiry—this is a good place to start. The authors provide 14 vignettes of historical detective work, ranging from “The Visible and Invisible Worlds of Salem” to “Instant Watergate.”

Harmin, Merrill. Strategies to Inspire Active Learning. Edwardsville, Ill.: Inspiring Strategy Institute, 1996.
This book is replete with active teaching strategies that will pick up the energy level in any lesson. The book contains more than 100 techniques grouped under such headings as “everyday instruction strategies,” “everyday group strategies,” “basic class procedures,” and “stimulating thinking.” Some of the Harmin strategies include “question-all write,” “whip around, pass option,” “outcome sentences,” “shared pairs,” and “task group, share group.” A smaller edition of the book, titled Inspiring Active Learning, was published by ASCD in 1996. Merrill Harmin conducts training in his active teaching strategies and can be reached at (618) 656-3173.

Havens, L., and C. Santana. Project CRISS: Creating Independence through Student-Owned Strategies. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co., 1995.
CRISS is a program funded by the National Diffusion Network. It contains many interactive teaching strategies designed to help students get meaning from reading textbooks and other materials. To find out about CRISS training, contact the National Diffusion coordinator at your state’s Department of Education.

Holt, T. Thinking Historically: Narrative, Imagination, and Understanding. New York: College Entrance Examination Board, 1990.
This book takes a creative look at what it means to be a historian and discusses how to make the work of historians visible and open to students—including what resources are available to them. An example of how to involve students in analyzing a document is provided.

Hursh, H. Activities Using the State of the World Atlas, 5th ed. Denver, Colo.: Center for Teaching International Relations, 1996.
These activities have been designed for use with M. Kidron and R. Sega#146;s State of the World Atlas (London: Penguin, 1995). This popular desk reference presents the world through dozens of maps, each based on a particular theme or topic (e.g., illiteracy rates, central government spending, refugee populations).

Joyce, B., M. Weil, and B. Showers. Models of Teaching. Needham Heights, Mass.: Allyn and Bacon, 1994.
This book was first published in 1973 and has been revised several times. It explains a number of research-based teaching strategies grouped under different “families” of teaching models, for example, information processing, social, and personal. Some of the strategies discussed in detail are “inquiry,” “concept attainment,” Taba’s inductive thinking, and group investigation. Dr. Joyce can be reached at Booksend Laboratories, P.O. Box 175, Pauma Valley, California 92061; telephone and fax (619) 742-3190.

Kagan, S. Cooperative Learning. San Clemente, Calif.: Kagan Cooperative Learning, 1995.
Spencer Kagan developed the structural model of cooperative learning. This book is a classic in the field, containing approximately 100 teaching strategies, including “numbered heads together,” “think-pair-share,” “roundtable,” and “Co-op Co-op.” Kagan’s Cooperative Learning has a catalog of classroom materials and books. The organization also conducts training. Contact: (800) Wee Co-op.

Korbin, D. Beyond the Textbook: Teaching History Using Documents and Primary Sources. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 1996.
The author presents a lucid description of how history is constructed, then provides several case studies of students engaged in the act of doing history in a Rhode Island classroom. Primary sources, constructive “worksheets,” and a reflective narrative make this a worthy read.

Leinhardt, G., I. L. Beck, and C. Stainton, eds. Teaching and Learning in History. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 1994.
Among other things, this collection reports research on how students make sense of historical accounts and represent texts cognitively, as well as on how teachers form different conceptions of the meaning of history.

Marshall, H. H. (Guest Editor) “Recent and Emerging Theoretical Frameworks for Research on Classroom Learning: Contributions and Limitations.” Special issue of Educational Psychologist, Vol. 92, No. 2 (1994).
This issue presents articles on topics such as information processing research; schema theory; and constructivist, sociocultural, and Vygotskian perspectives on learning and teaching.

Marzano, R., D. Pickering, R. Brandt, et al. Teacher’s Manual: Dimensions of Learning. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1977.
Dimensions of Learning is an instructional framework developed by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and the Mid-continental Regional Educational Laboratory. The principal developer was Robert Marzano. It contains numerous active teaching strategies for each dimension, including K-W-L, concept attainment, and reciprocal teaching. Contact: (703) 549-9110.

Newmann, F. M., W. G. Secada, and G. G. Wehlage. A Guide to Authentic Instruction and Assessment: Vision, Standards, and Scoring. Madison: Wisconsin Center for Educational Research.
This monograph presents criteria, standards, and scoring rubrics for evaluating authentic instruction, assessment, and student performance. Samples of actual tasks and student work are included.

Slavin, Robert. Student Team Learning. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University, 1983.
Robert Slavin is the originator of a number of cooperative learning strategies for teaching factual content. This book contains his “Student Team Learning” strategies, including Student Teams Achievement Division (STAD), Teams-Games-Tournaments (TGT), and Jigsaw II. Dr. Slavin can be reached at (303) 338-8249.

Stahl, Robert J. Cooperative Learning in Social Studies: A Handbook for Teachers. Menlo Park, Calif.: Addison-Wesley, 1994.
In this book edited by Robert Stahl, former president of NCSS, readers will find a thorough introduction to cooperative learning. It includes articles by such well-known practitioners and trainers as David and Roger Johnson, Spencer Kagan, and the Sharans. The various chapters offer both cooperative learning strategies (such as Teams-Games-Tournaments and Jigsaw II) and basic cooperative learning models (the Johnsons’ “Learning Together” and Kagan’s “Structural Approach”).

Wineburg, S. S. “Special Issue.” The Teaching and Learning of History 29, no. 2 (1994).
This issue includes articles on cognition in history, learning to think like a historian, and the assessment of historical understanding.

In addition
Notable proponents of constructivist ideas and approaches have actually been around for years, dating to Socrates, if not earlier. Among our favorite original works from more recent times: Acts of Meaning, by Jerome Bruner (Harvard University Press, 1990), Democracy and Education, by John Dewey (Free Press, 1966), To Understand is to Invent, by Jean Piaget (Grossman, 1973), and Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes, by Lev Vygotsky (Harvard, 1978). There are also numerous books with edited chapters dealing with research, theory, and application of constructivist theory across disciplines. These include: Constructivism in Education, edited by Leslie Steffe and Jerry Gale (Erlbaum, 1995) and Constructivism: Theory Perspectives, and Practice, edited by Catherine Fosnot (Teachers College Press, 1966).

©1998 National Council for the Social Studies. All rights reserved.