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The nature of learning: Using research to inspire practice

Nature of Learning logoI thoroughly enjoyed reading this booklet, The nature of learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice (OECD) from the Innovative Learning Environments Project. We’re often looking for research to back up the way we think and work, and here’s a source that gives the most up-to-date perspective about the intersection between applying what we know about the science of learning to teaching and learning practices. Anyone interested in improving the design of learning environments can’t go pass this concise read. It starts off with a short summary of the fundamentals of learning.

How people learn – highlights social, collaborative, constructive, contextualized. This has implications for adaptive expertise - where learning processes are balanced and designed to grow a core set of adaptable competencies for life-long learning (much like NZC).

Key take-a-way: Learners need a balance of guided learning, action learning and experiential learning – formally and informally to develop a set of adaptable competencies.

Layered with this, is the understanding students bring their own experiences, dispositions and motivation to learning. For some this is a barrier, for others an enabler. Positive and yet realistic expectations from teachers have shown to have significant impact on student achievement. I remember similar messages emerging from the research from Te Kotahitanga

Key take-a-way: Emotions are important and can become the gate-keepers to learning. Teachers should aim to “identify and foster personal interests and the intrinsic motivation of students.”

The booklet highlights 7 transversal principles of learning that take key understandings about learning and provide an analysis, “of the implications for different types of application in learning environments.” Here they are short and sweet:

  1. Learners at the centre
  2. The social nature of learning
  3. Emotions are integral to learning
  4. Recognizing individual differences
  5. Stretching all student
  6. Assessment for learning
  7. Building horizontal connections

Key take-a-way: Each of the principles encapsulates the fundamentals of learning and provides further statements deserving deeper discussion and dissemination - within and between learning communities. 

The resource ends with the acknowledgment that as educators we need to redesign learning environments that harness the potential of digital technologies in a knowledge-based economy to develop 21st century learning competencies for our learners. 

Teacher So what does this mean for the teacher who wants their classroom to reflect the fundamentals or science of learning? At the individual level, what can be done in at the planning and implementation phases of teaching and learning?

Group of teachers What about the syndicate or faculty that wants to better leverage learning opportunities that demonstrate horizontal connectedness? How can a secondary school create adaptive learning opportunities to do this well?

School What does this look like at the organisational level if a whole school is committed to creating innovative learning environments? Where does one start full stop?

We'd love to hear your thoughts!  smiley


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