Non-Trivial Constructivisms


Developmental Learning


Ongoing production and refinement of meaning

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … sum of already-established construals/constructs
  • Knowing is … personal sense derived from individual experience
  • Learner is … a meaning-maker
  • Learning is … construing or construction
  • Teaching is … supporting sense-making


1720s / 1960s


Non-Trivial Constructivisms encompass a range of learning theories that invoke a “learning as construing” – vs. a “learning as constructing” – metaphor. The construing–constructing distinction is critical, and it became an issue because the French verb construire can be translated as either “to construe” (i.e., to integrate elements to make sense of) or “to construct” (i.e., to build something). Original non-English authors of the theories intended the former, but early English translators opted for the latter – and it stuck. Non-Trivial Constructivisms were among the first Coherence Discourses, and they were explicitly intended as refutations of the assumptions and assertions of Correspondence Discourses (including the “knowledge as object” metaphor that goes along with “learning as construction”). Important notions associated with Non-Trivial Constructivisms include:
  • Construal – one’s evolving interpretation of associated experiences, often coupled with the Sensemaking Metaphor and/or the Meaning-Making Metaphor. The notion is used as an alternative to “construct” in a deliberate effort to detach from building-based metaphors.


The biggest problem with Non-Trivial Constructivisms is that the term “Constructivism” is commonly used to refer to theories that are flatly contradictory. Most formal versions are Coherence Discourses, but some are Correspondence Discourses. To further complicate matters, most are strictly theories of learning, but some focus mainly on teaching. Often critics are unaware of this breadth of interpretation, and criticisms can thus be shallow or misdirected. That point in mind, the two most common accusations against Non-Trivial Constructivisms are that they may be solipsistic (i.e., aligned with the notion that the self is the only thing that exists) and/or relativistic (i.e., aligned with the notion that there are no absolute truths).


  • Construal

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Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2021). “Non-Trivial Constructivisms” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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