Constructivist Teaching in China Today

  • Zitong Wei


Based on a review of 11 research about Chinese preschool and kindergarten teachers’ use of constructivism, this chapter suggests a research paradigm shift. Whereas research reviewed found that teachers preferred direct teaching over constructivism, the etic views, that is, interpretations from cultural outsider perspectives hardly provide culturally meaningful understandings of teaching and learning in Chinese contexts. This chapter reexamines existing interpretations of the findings from an emic or cultural insider perspective. By proposing a research paradigm shift, this research discusses the usefulness of constructivism with regard to proprieties and benevolence as well as the similarities between constructivist and Confucian teaching in terms of coherence of theories and practices. Discussions are organized around four themes: pedagogical content knowing, heuristic teaching, the relationship between play and learning, and practical strategies. After a review of youeryuan teacher education policies in China, this chapter summarizes a conceptual framework for utilizing constructivism in Chinese contexts.


  1. Ames, R. T. (2009). He er bu tong: Zhong xi zhe xue de hui tong [Harmonious yet different: The fusion of Chinese and Western philosophy] (H. Wen, et al., Trans.). Beijing, China: Peaking University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Ames, R. T. (2011). Confucian role ethics: A vocabulary. Hong Kong, China: The Chinese University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bao, P. (2015, February 25). Kong Meng ru he jie jue “qian dao de wen ti” [How Confucius and Mencius solve “pre-moral problems”]. Zhonghua du shu bao, p. 15.Google Scholar
  4. Block, J. H., & Hazelip, K. (1995). Teachers’ beliefs and belief systems. In L. W. Anderson (Ed.), International encyclopedia of teaching and teacher education (2nd ed., pp. 25–28). New York, NY: Elsevier Science.Google Scholar
  5. Branscombe, N. A., Burcham, J. G., Castle, K., Surbeck, E., Dorsey, A. G., & Taylor, J. B. (2014). Early childhood curriculum: A constructivist perspective (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Brown, A. L., & Campione, J. C. (1990). Interactive learning environments and the teaching of science and mathematics. In M. Gardner, J. G. Greeno, F. Reif, A. H. Schoenfeld, A. A. diSessa, & E. Stage (Eds.), Toward a scientific practice of science education (pp. 111–140). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  7. Calderhead, J. (1996). Teachers: Beliefs and knowledge. In D. C. Berliner & R. C. Calfee (Eds.), Handbook of educational psychology (pp. 709–725). New York, NY: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  8. Chen, L. (2015). Zhonghua wen ming de he xin jia zhi: Guo xue liu bian yu chuan tong jia zhi guan [The core values of Chinese civilization]. Beijing, China: Joint Publishing.Google Scholar
  9. Cinnamond, J., & Zimpher, N. (1990). Reflectivity as a function of community. In R. T. Clift, R. W. Huston, & M. C. Pugach (Eds.), Encouraging reflective practice in education: An analysis of issues and programs (pp. 57–72). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  10. Cochran, K. F., DeRuiter, J. A., & King, R. A. (1993). Pedagogical content knowing: An integrative model for teacher preparation. Journal of Teacher Education, 44(4), 263–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cornett, J. W. (1990). Teacher thinking about curriculum and instruction: A case study of a secondary social studies teacher. Theory and Research in Social Education, 18(3), 248–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Deng, Z. (1995). Jia ting jiao yu xue [Family education]. Fuzhou, Fujian, China: Fujian Education Press.Google Scholar
  13. DeVries, R. (2001). Transforming the “play-oriented curriculum” and work in constructivist early education. In A. Goncu & E. L. Klein (Eds.), Children in play, story, and school (pp. 72–106). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  14. Fosnot, C. (1989). Enquiring teachers, enquiring learners: A constructivist approach to teaching. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  15. Fosnot, C. T. (2005b). Teachers construct constructivism: The center for constructivist teaching/teacher preparation project. In C. T. Fosnot (Ed.), Constructivism: Theory, perspectives and practice (2nd ed., pp. 263–275). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  16. Fung, Y. (2008). Problematizing contemporary Confucianism in East Asia. In J. L. Richey (Ed.), Teaching Confucianism. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Gao, X. (2008). You er jiao shi er tong xue xi guan de lei xing yan jiu [The study of types of preschool and kindergarten teachers’ views on children’s learning]. Journal of Educational Studies, 4(5), 68–73.Google Scholar
  18. Gao, X., & Pang, L. (2007). Jiao shi de er tong xue xi guan yu qi jiao yu xing wei de guan xi yan jiu [A study of teachers’ beliefs and behaviors regarding children’s learning]. Teacher Education Research, 19(3), 41–45.Google Scholar
  19. Gao, X., & Pang, L. (2009). You er jiao shi er tong xue xi guan de zhi xing fen xi [Qualitative analysis of preschool and kindergarten teachers’ beliefs on children’s learning]. Teacher Education Research, 21(1), 36–40.Google Scholar
  20. Goldstein, L. S. (2007). Beyond the DAP versus standards dilemma: Examining the unforgiving complexity of kindergarten teaching in the United States. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 22, 39–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Goldstein, L. S. (2016). Using developmentally appropriate practices to teach the common core: Grades pre-K-3. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Goldstein, L. S., & Bauml, M. (2012). Supporting children’s learning while meeting state standards: Strategies and suggestions for pre-K—Grade 3 teachers in public school contexts. Young Children, 67(3), 96–103.Google Scholar
  23. Greenfield, P. M. (2000). Three approaches to the psychology of culture: Where do they come from? Where can they go? Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 3, 223–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hall, D. L., & Ames, R. T. (1987). Thinking through Confucius. New York, NY: State University of New York.Google Scholar
  25. Hargreaves, A. (2010). Presentism, individualism, and conservatism: The legacy of Dan Lortie’s “Schoolteacher: A sociological study”. Curriculum Inquiry, 40(1), 143–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. He, Y., Levin, B. B., & Li, Y. (2011). Comparing the content and sources of the pedagogical beliefs of Chinese and American preservice teachers. Journal of Education for Teaching., 37(2), 155–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hershock, P. D. (2006). Buddhism in the public sphere. Reorienting global interdependence. New York, NY: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Huang, L. (2006). Cong zhe xue fan chou quan shi Zhongguo zhe xue de fang fa lun si wei ji qi xi tong jia gou de jv xian [The interpretation of the Chinese philosophy’s methodology thinking and its limits of system framework from philosophy category]. Journal of Chinese Language and Literature of National Taipei University, 1, 205–231.Google Scholar
  29. Hwang, K. K. (2011). Foundations of Chinese psychology: Confucian social relations. New York, NY: Springer.Google Scholar
  30. Kim, Y., & Kim, J. (2013). The great equal society: Confucianism, China and the 21st century. Hackensack, NJ: World Scientific.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kline, F. M., Deshler, D. D., & Schumaker, J. B. (1992). Implementing learning strategy instruction in class settings: A research perspective. In M. Pressley, K. R. Harris, & J. T. Guthrie (Eds.), Promoting academic competence and literacy in school (pp. 361–406). Bingley, UK: Emerald Group.Google Scholar
  32. Kuhn, D. (1992). Thinking as argument. Harvard Educational Review, 62, 155–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Legge, J. (1971). Confucian analects: The great learning and the doctrine of the mean. New York, NY: Dover.Google Scholar
  34. Li, H., Rao, N., & Tse, S. K. (2012). Adapting Western pedagogies for Chinese literacy instruction: Case studies of Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Singapore preschools. Early Education and Development, 23(4), 603–621.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Li, H., Wang, X. C., & Wong, J. M. (2011). Early childhood curriculum reform in China: Perspectives from examining teachers’ beliefs and practices in Chinese literacy teaching. Chinese Education and Society, 44(6), 5–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Li, J. (2006). Han zi gou xing te zheng yu you er ren zhi de gong ming [The resonance of configuration characteristics of Chinese character and cognition of young children – A research on feasibility of Chinese character education to children]. Studies in Early Childhood Education, 7/8, 45–48.Google Scholar
  37. Li, Y. (1989). Ru xue yu Zhongguo ren de zhi jue si wei [Confucianism and Chinese intuitive way of thinking]. The Journal of Humanities, 3, 98–102.Google Scholar
  38. Li, Y., & Huang, R. (Eds.). (2013). How Chinese teach mathematics and improve teaching. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  39. Liu, J., & Elicker, J. (2005). Teacher-child interaction in Chinese kindergartens: An observational analysis. International Journal of Early Years Education, 13(2), 129–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Liu, R. (2006). Liu ru de jiao shou tan jian gou zhu yi [Discussions on constructivism by professor Liu Rude] [VCD]. Beijing, China: Dian hua jiao yu dian zi yin xiang chu ban she.Google Scholar
  41. Liu, Z., et al. (2011). Zhong guo you er yuan jiao yu zhi liang ping jia: shi yi sheng shi you er yuan jiao yu zhi ling diao cha [Chinese youeryuan education quality assessment: Eleven provinces youeryuan quality assessment]. Beijing, China: Educational Science.Google Scholar
  42. Lortie, D. (1975). Schoolteacher: A sociological study. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  43. McEwan, H., & Bull, B. (1991). The pedagogic nature of subject matter knowledge. American Educational Research Journal, 28(2), 316–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Mclntyre, D. J., Byrd, D. M., & Foxx, S. M. (1996). Field and laboratory experiences. In J. Sikula, T. J. Buttery, & E. Guyton (Eds.), Handbook of research on teacher education (2nd ed., pp. 102–119). New York, NY: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  45. McMullen, M. B., Elicker, J., Wang, J., Erdiller, Z., Lee, S. M., Lin, C. H., & Sun, P. Y. (2005). Comparing beliefs about appropriate practice among early childhood education professionals from the U.S., China, Taiwan, Korea and Turkey. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 20(4), 451–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Mewborn, D. S., & Tyminski, A. M. (2006). Lortie’s apprenticeship of observation revisited. For the Learning of Mathematics, 26(3), 30–32.Google Scholar
  47. Meynard, T. (2010). The religious philosophy of Liang Shuming: The hidden Buddhist. Boston, MA: Brill.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Miller, G. E., & Brewster, M. E. (1992). Developing self-sufficient learners in reading and mathematics through self-instructional training. In M. Pressley, K. R. Harris, & J. T. Guthrie (Eds.), Promoting academic competence and literacy in school (pp. 169–222). Bingley, UK: Emerald Group.Google Scholar
  49. Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. (2001). You er yuan jiao yu zhi dao gang yao [The guidance for Youeryuan education]. Retrieved from
  50. Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. (2011). Jiao shi jiao yu ke cheng biao zhun (shi xing) [Teachers education curriculum standard, trial version]. Retrieved from
  51. Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. (2012b). You er yuan jiao shi zhuan ye biao zhun (shi xing) [Youeryuan teachers’ professional standard, trial version]. Retrieved from
  52. Nuthall, G. (1995). Heuristic models of teaching. In W. A. Lorin (Ed.), International encyclopedia of teaching and teacher education (2nd ed., pp. 122–126). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Palincsar, A. S., & Brown, A. L. (1984). Reciprocal teaching of comprehension-fostering and comprehension-monitoring activities. Cognition and Instruction, 1(2), 117–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Pan, Y., & Liu, Y. (2008). A comparison of curricular practices in Chinese kindergartens: The influence of curriculum reform. International Journal of Early Childhood, 40(2), 33–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Rao, N., Ng, S. S. N., & Pearson, E. (2009). Preschool pedagogy: A fusion of traditional Chinese beliefs and contemporary notions of appropriate practice. In C. K. K. Chan & N. Rao (Eds.), Revisiting the Chinese learner: Changing contexts, changing education (pp. 255–280). Hong Kong, China: Comparative Education Research Center/Springer Science and Business Media.Google Scholar
  56. Richardson, V. (1996). The role of attitudes and beliefs in learning to teach. In J. Sikula, T. J. Buttery, & E. Guyton (Eds.), Handbook of research on teacher education (2nd ed., pp. 102–119). New York, NY: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  57. Shulman, L. S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Tang, F., & Maxwell, S. (2007). Being taught to learn together: An ethnographic study of the curriculum in two Chinese kindergartens. Early Years: An International Research Journal, 27(2), 145–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. VanderVen, K. (1997). Chaos/complexity theory, constructivism, interdisciplinary and early childhood teacher education. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 18(3), 43–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wan, Y., & Rao, W. (2010). Kongzi shi sheng guan yu he xie shi sheng guan xi de gou jian [Confucius’s view of the relationship between teachers and students and the establishment of harmonious teacher-student relationship]. Education Research Monthly., 8, 95–97.Google Scholar
  61. Wang, B. (2005). Zhongguo chuan tong wen hua yu you er jiao yu [Chinese traditional culture and early childhood education]. In L. Pang, M. Tu, & H. Zhang (Eds.), Wen hua chuan cheng yu you er jiao yu [Cultural inheritance and early childhood education] (pp.1–13). Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China: Zhejiang Education Publishing House.Google Scholar
  62. Wang, J., Elicker, J., McMullen, M., & Mao, S. (2008). Chinese and American preschool teachers' beliefs about early childhood curriculum. Early Child Development and Care, 178(3), 227–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wang, L. (2012). Xian Qin ru xue ke zhi dao de xiang dui zhu yi de san ge xiang du [Three dimensions of moral relativism control in pre-Qin Confucian]. Zhejiang Social Sciences, 2, 103–158.Google Scholar
  64. White, R. T. (1992). Implications of recent research on learning for curriculum and assessment. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 24(2), 153–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Wittrock, M. C. (1991). Generative teaching of comprehension. The Elementary School Journal, 92(2), 169–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Woods, P. (1983). Sociology and the school: An interactionist viewpoint. Boston, MA: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  67. Wu, X., & Ren, K. (2014). Tong guo zi yuan shi zi ti gao you er han zi li jie yu ji yi de shi zheng yan jiu [An empirical study on improving young children’s comprehension and memory of Chinese characters through etymological teaching]. Contemporary Education and Culture, 6(5), 42–49.Google Scholar
  68. Yang, B., & Lau, D. (2008). Lun yu [Confucius, The Analects]. Beijing, China: Zhonghua.Google Scholar
  69. Zhu, J. (2009). Jian gou zhu yi li lun dui Zhongguo xue qian jiao yu de ying xiang [The influence of constructivist theory on Chinese youeryuan education]. In J. Zhu (Ed.), Jian gou zhu yi shi ye xia de xue qian jiao yu [Youeryuan education from a constructivist perspective] (pp. 320–341). Shanghai, China: East China Normal University Press.Google Scholar
  70. Ziedler, D.L., Lederman, N.G., & Taylor, S.C. (1992). Fallacies and student discourse: Conceptualizing the role of critical thinking in science education. Science Education, 76(4), 437-450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zitong Wei
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Indiana University BloomingtonBloomingtonUSA
  2. 2.China Women’s UniversityBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations