The Construction Zone

Occasional thoughts about education and 'who is in charge of the learning'

The Construction Zone

The Construction Zone name arises from a confluence of several big ideas—constructionism, ZPD, mindfulness, the literature on expertise. These are briefly described here, but, in fact, most of the posts relate to these issues in one way or another!

Respect the students’ ‘desire to know’ and also their ‘right to self-determination’.

Students who are passionate and engaged in their learning act as ‘origins’ of their own behaviour, not as ‘pawns’ of the education system


Constructionist learning theory has evolved from constructivist theories of learning that, as mentioned, recognize that learning is an active process in which learners construct mental models and theories of the world in which they live.  Read more…

Zone of Proximal Development

The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) (or construction zone, Cole et al.) may be defined as the zone in which we can accomplish a task with the assistance, or accompaniment, of a more knowledgeable other – a task that we could not handle alone. The student should ideally be engaged at the outside limit of competence.  Read more…

Mindfulness or Intentional Learning

Intentional Learning (IL) is a frame of mind which thrives in a classroom culture focused on students taking charge of their own learning. Many agree that the cultural surround affects learning. “In the Vygotskian approach to instruction, changes in the whole interactional system, not just in the student, are thus considered in the analysis of cognitive change.”  Read more…


Intentional learners are learning to become expert at becoming expert. That is to say, not only are they learning declarative, subject matter and procedural functionality, they are acquiring valuable metacognitive knowledge as well.  Experts across domains demonstrate consistent general problem solving strategies. Some of these include:  Read more…

The Construction Zone in Practice

This section describes an implementation of The Construction Zone philosophy at a school in Toronto. Although the zone no longer exists at the school, it seemed worthwhile to leave this description.

The Construction Zone is as much a philosophy of education as it is a physical location in the YMCA Academy.
Although classes are held in the Zone, it is not a traditional ‘classroom’.  All of the resources of the Zone are available to anyone, and everyone, at anytime when the resources are available.  Students may come and work on projects for other courses.  Teachers may come, learn and create using the specialized media available.  Technical support is available through the students and/or staff.  Even if the door is closed…it is ‘open’.  If it is physically closed, it is to keep the noise ‘in’ – not to keep people ‘out’.  Will this traffic disturb the ‘class’ in progress? No. Classes held in the Zone are typically less teacher-centric.  However, at times when teacher instruction is underway, the students and staff will have come to understand the nature of the Zone and will conduct their business appropriately.  Read more…

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