Critical Constructivism

Critical constructivism extends and adjusts constructivism, which opposes positivism and asserts that nothing represents an objective, neutral perspective. Merging constructivist or constructionist views with critical epistemology, developed by the Frankfurt School, critical constructivism encourages critical thinking and criticality in the research process. Based on the understanding that knowledge of the world is an interpretation between people that is crafted in a contextualised space, critical constructivists argue that knowledge is temporally and culturally situated, therefore knowledge and phenomena are socially constructed in a dialogue between culture, institutions, and historical contexts. Critical constructivism maintains that historical, social, cultural, economic, and political contexts construct our perspectives on the world, self, and other. Ontologically critical constructivists seek to understand how socio-historic dynamics influence and shape an object of inquiry, and epistemologically critical constructivists explore how the foundations of knowledge of a given context surround an object of inquiry.




Strongly influenced by the work of Joe Kincheloe, which in turn was developed from Paulo Freire’s critical pedagogy, critical constructivism encourages greater personal and social consciousness, helping to develop freedom of thought that recognises authoritarian tendencies and connects knowledge to power, motivating persons to take constructive action. Critical constructivism theorises the connection between power and knowledge, maintaining that in societies only certain groups and institutions can gain prominence and become sanctioned as proprietors of knowledge, and powerful groups maintain their knowledge construction legitimacy by continuously undermining alternative knowledges. This approach works to dismantle mainstream teaching and research practices that, perhaps unknowingly, are implicit in the reproduction of systems of class, race, cultural, and gender oppression, aiming to encourage reflexivity and the opening of questions through conversation and critical self-reflection. Critical constructivism encourages the establishment of dialogue orientated towards achieving mutual understanding. Critical constructivist thought, which has been adopted in many critical approaches, for example, postcolonial, decolonial and feminist theories, encourages the questioning of dominant systems of knowledge production and the opening-up of a dialogue concerned with critical awareness.




Following Freire, critical constructivists reiterate the notion that knowledge is not a substance that can be deposited like money in a bank and taken out when time for use arrives. Knowledge is constructed in the minds of all people – minds that are formed by the society around them. However, knowledge from some societies is privileged over that of others. Critical constructivism is the practice of searching out alternative discourses and new ways of thinking, while also exposing subjugated knowledge. As such, this practice works to expose elitist assumptions embedded in existing knowledge, questions dominant forms of knowledge production and seeks out non-Western epistemologies so as to include previously excluded and marginalised knowledge in mainstream discourse.


Essential Reading

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. London: The Continuum Publishing Company.

Kincheloe, J. L. (2005). Critical Constructivism Primer. New York, NY: P. Lang.



Recommended Reading

Foucault, M. and Gordon, C. (1980). Power/knowledge: Selected interviews and other writings, 1972-1977. New York, NY: Pantheon Books.

Kincheloe, J. L., and McLaren, P. (2005). Rethinking Critical Theory and Qualitative Research. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research (Third, pp. 303–342). Sage Publications.

Kincheloe, J. L., McLaren, P., & Steinberg, S. R. (2011). Critical pedagogy and qualitative research. Handbook Qualitative Research, 163–177.

Rogers, M. (2012). Contextualizing Theories and Practices of Bricolage Research. The Qualitative Report, 17, 1–17.




How does critical constructivism aim to influence teaching and research?

What is the relationship between critical constructivism and critical theory?

How does critical constructivism contribute to new or alternative knowledge production?

How does critical constructivism facilitate the dissemination of new or alternative knowledge from the South, which is often located outside of mainstream Western discourse?


Submitted by Jennifer Manning 

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3 thoughts on “Transnationalism”

  • As a recent recipient of the graduate school certificate in African studies at ASU, my final drew from or focused in part on the settler narrative movement of the antebellum era. Despite the discovery of over 100 burials from this era that came to light recently, it was all treated in a quite troubing manner. Settler Colonial mentality was pervasive. It is clear, the slave labor narrative must be preserved at all cost. Local professional organizations and offices were disrespected and ignored as if the descended community did not exist. People wear the continuance of mixed relationships from this history and it is only now that they are finding their voice and their heritage in some cases. Global social theory is spot on.

  • I’m interested in colonialism,settler colonialism and decolonisation as it speaks to the original ownership of the land/country[?].
    I was interested to read ‘the tendency among some scholars of settler colonialism to treat settlement as inevitable, simultaneously relieving settler societies and states of the burden of reconciling with indigenous peoples, and placing the burden of accommodating settler sovereignty onto those same indigenous peoples'[above]
    I have been tentatively searching for references to the morality/legality of colonialisation,which could possibly have huge ramifications,and they are scarce.

  • Interesting. Could you please add Maria Lugones’s work in the further reading section please? She not only engaged with Quijano’s concept but revised it significantly to demonstrate the coloniality of gender. Thank you.

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