Social constructivism is an interpretive framework whereby individuals seek to understand their world and develop their own particular meanings that correspond to their experience (Creswell, 2013). These meanings are not etched or innate within each individual. Rather, meanings are formed through interaction with others (Creswell, 2013). Social constructionism has its origins in sociology and emerged over thirty years ago (Andrews, 2012). Also referred to as interpretivism, social constructivism has been associated with the post-modern era in qualitative research (Andrews, 2012). Social constructivists view knowledge and truth as created by the interactions of individuals within a society (Andrews, 2012). Some researchers suggest that language predates concepts and allows an individual to structure the way their world is experienced (Andrews, 2012). This interpretive framework is useful in phenomenological research studies.
In my phenomenological study of employee perceptions, I applied the interpretive framework of social constructivism by asking research participants open-ended questions (suggested by Creswell, p.25). This approach allowed the research participants to fully and freely describe their own experiences. As the researcher, my role was to listen carefully to their views and interpret the findings based on their background and experiences (Creswell, 2013). The interpretation of their experiences revealed a significant amount of information regarding the phenomenon (employee perceptions) and also offered new insight to the overall study. Applying the social constructionism framework was the most useful approach in gaining access to the views and nuances that influenced the individual worlds of my research participants.
Andrews, T. (2012). What is social constructionism? The Grounded Theory Review, 11 (1). 39-46.
Creswell, J.W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry & research design: choosing among the five approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.