Social Constructionism

Original Editor - Lucinda hampton

Top Contributors - Lucinda hampton and Kim Jackson  

Introduction[edit | edit source]


Social constructionism is the theory that people develop knowledge of the world in a social context, and much of what we perceive as reality depends on shared assumptions.

  1. From a social constructionist perspective, many things we take for granted and believe are in reality are socially constructed, and are able to change as society changes.
  2. Social constructionists believe that things that are generally viewed as natural or normal in society (eg understandings of gender, race, class, and disability) are socially constructed, and accordingly are not an accurate reflection of reality.
  3. Social constructs are often created within specific institutions and cultures and come to prominence in certain historical periods. Social constructs’ dependence of historical, political, and economic conditions can lead them to evolve and change.[1]

This 3 minute video summarises the theory well.


History[edit | edit source]

Social constructivism (a social learning theory developed by Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky) states that individuals are active participants in the creation of their own knowledge. He believed that learning takes place primarily in social and cultural settings, rather than solely within the individual. eg students learn primarily through interactions with their peers, teachers, and parents[3].

  • From the constructivist position, knowledge is constructed by humans, validated by use in society, and so maintained by social institution.
  • Constructivism means that human beings do not find or discover knowledge so much as construct or make it. We invent concepts, models and schemes to make sense of experience and further, we continually test and modify these constructions in the light of new experience.[4]
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be viewed as a form of social constructivism: From the first session, an emphasis is placed not only on the active role of the client within therapy but also on the instructive nature of CBT (compared to other types of therapy in which the therapist takes on the role of an active listener; e.g., talk therapy).
  • See also Conceptual Models of Disability and Functioning regarding the social disability and functioning model that frames disability as something that is socially constructed.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Thought Co. Social Constructionism Definition and Examples Available: (accessed 16.8.2021)
  2. PHILO-notes. What is Social Constructionism? Available from: [last accessed 16.8.2021]
  3. Davis ML, Witcraft SM, Baird SO, Smits JA. Learning principles in CBT. InThe science of cognitive behavioral therapy 2017 Jan 1 (pp. 51-76). Academic Press.Available: (accessed 17.8.2021)
  4. Myburgh S, Tammaro AM. Exploring education for digital librarians: meaning, modes and models. Elsevier; 2013 Apr 17.Available: (accessed 17.8.2021)