Relational Constructivism


Personal sense-making/understanding/knowing

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … sum of collectively established construals/constructions
  • Knowing is … evolving webs of coherent interpretations; fitness with circumstances
  • Learner is … a meaning maker (individual)
  • Learning is … construing*, connecting, interpreting, weaving
  • Teaching is … occasioning, prompting, triggering, listening




Relational Constructivism is an elaboration of Genetic Epistemology that aims to incorporate the social and the material more explicitly into its account of personal sense-making. Relational Constructivism combines two theoretical influences – namely Embodiment Discourses’ focus on subjective construals based on one’s unique experiences and Embeddedness Discourses’ realization that subjective construals are not random but conditioned by one’s situation. Associated constructs include:
  • Relational Reasoning (Relational Thinking) – the malleable and teachable ability recognize or construe meaningful pattens in unassociated bits of information. Relational Reasoning is usually invoked as a rather coarse, umbrella notion that – depending on the context – can include most Modes of Reasoning. It is associated with:
  • Relational Knowledge – one’s well-connected, flexible, and available knowings (Highly similar: Relational Understanding, under Deep vs. Surface Learning.)
  • Powerful Knowledge (Michael Young, 2014) – specialized, systematic knowledge that enables one’s capacities to predict, explain, and act strategically


At first glance, it might appear that Relational Constructivism covers the same ground as Social Constructivism. While such an interpretation is not incorrect, the two theories take very different approaches. Social Constructivism combines theories uncritically, but Relational Constructivism returns to the philosophical roots of Non-Trivial Constructivisms to offer a well-integrated theory that maintains its focus on individual sense-making. That said, the theory has not been broadly embraced and thus has a limited research base.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

Björn Kraus

Status as a Theory of Learning

Relational Constructivism is a theory of learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Relational Constructivism is a not a theory of teaching.

Status as a Scientific Theory

Relational Constructivism does not have a substantial empirical basis, but it is sufficiently similar to Genetic Epistemology and Radical Constructivism to assert the theory is scientific.


  • Powerful Knowledge
  • Relational Knowledge
  • Relational Reasoning (Relational Thinking)

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2022). “Relational Constructivism” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

⇦ Back to Map
⇦ Back to List