The Principles of Learning

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The Principles of Learning


The Principles of Learning, developed under the direction of Lauren B. Resnick at the Institute for Learning, Learning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh (http://alan.lrdc.pitt.edu/lrdc/), are statements describing learning environments and instructional practices that enable all students to reach high standards of achievement.† Based on more than 20 years of research on learning and cognition, the principles provide guidelines for organizing schools and classrooms in ways that remove old assumptions that inherited ability determines what a student can learn. The following nine principles also guide schools in establishing the kinds of curriculum and pedagogy that will insure achievement of rigorous academic standards by all students and create robust learning capabilities for the future:


Academic Rigor in a Thinking Curriculum


Accountable Talk


Clear Expectations


Fair and Credible Evaluations


Learning as Apprenticeship


Organizing for Effort


Recognition of Accomplishment


Socializing Intelligence


Self-management of Learning


Academic Rigor in a Thinking Curriculum


Building on a solid foundation of knowledge, thinking and problem solving will be the "new basics" of the 21st century.† So must the idea that we can teach knowledge without engaging students in thinking. Knowledge and thinking are intimately joined. This implies a curriculum organized around major concepts that students are expected to know deeply. Teaching must engage students in active reasoning about these concepts. In every subject, at every grade level, instruction and learning must include commitment to a knowledge core, high thinking demand, and active use of knowledge.


Accountable Talk


Talking with others about ideas and work is fundamental to learning. But not all talk sustains learning. For classroom talk to promote learning it must be accountable--to the learning community, to accurate and appropriate knowledge, and to rigorous thinking. Accountable talk seriously responds to and further develops what others in the group have said. It puts forth and demands knowledge that is accurate and relevant to the issue under discussion.


Clear Expectations


For all students to achieve at high levels, educators must define clearly what students are expected to learn. These expectations need to be communicated clearly so that school professionals, parents, the community and, above all, students themselves embrace them. Descriptive criteria and models of work that meets standards should be publicly displayed, and students should refer to these displays to help them analyze and discuss their work. With visible accomplishment targets to aim toward at each stage of learning, students can participate in evaluating their own work and setting goals for their own effort.


Fair and Credible Evaluations


Educators need to use assessments that students find fair; and that parents, community, and employers find credible. Fair evaluations are ones that students can prepare for: therefore, tests, exams and classroom assessments--as well as the curriculum--must be aligned to the standards. Fair assessment also means grading against absolute standards rather than on a curve, so students can clearly see the results of their learning efforts.


Learning as Apprenticeship


For many centuries most people learned by working alongside an expert who modeled skilled practice and guided novices as they created authentic products or performances for interested and critical audiences. This kind of apprenticeship allowed learners to acquire complex interdisciplinary knowledge, practical abilities, and appropriate forms of social behavior. Much of the power of apprenticeship learning can be brought into schooling by organizing learning environments so that complex thinking is modeled and analyzed, and by providing mentoring and coaching as students undertake extended projects and develop presentations of finished work, both in and beyond the classroom.


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Organizing for Effort


An effort-based school assumes that sustained and directed effort can yield high achievement for all students. Everything is organized to support this effort, to send the message that effort is expected and that tough problems produce sustained work. High minimum standards are set and assessments are geared to the standards. All students are taught a rigorous curriculum, matched to the standards, along with as much time and expert instruction as they need to meet or exceed expectations.


Recognition of Accomplishment


For students to put forth and sustain high levels of effort, they must be motivated, in part, through recognition of their accomplishments. Clear recognition of authentic accomplishment is a hallmark of an effort-based school. This recognition can take the form of celebrations of work that meets standards or intermediate progress benchmarks en route to the standards. Progress points should be articulated so that, regardless of entering performance level, every student can meet real accomplishment criteria often enough to be recognized frequently.


Socializing Intelligence


Intelligence is much more than a natural ability to think quickly and accumulate knowledge. Intelligence is a set of problem-solving and reasoning capabilities along with the habits of mind that lead one to use those capabilities regularly. Intelligence is also a set of beliefs about one's right and obligation to understand and make sense of the world, and one's capacity to figure things out over time. Intelligent habits of mind are learned through the daily expectations placed on the learner. By calling on students to use the skills of intelligent thinking--and by holding them responsible for doing so--educators can "teach" intelligence.


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Self-management of Learning


If students are going to be responsible for the quality of their thinking and learning, they need to develop--and regularly use--an array of self-monitoring and self-management strategies. These metacognitive skills include noticing when one doesn't understand something and taking steps to remedy the situation, as well as asking questions.† Students also manage their own learning by evaluating the feedback they get from others; drawing upon past knowledge to bear on new learning; anticipating learning difficulties and using their time accordingly.† Learning environments should be designed to model and encourage the regular use of self-management strategies.


For additional information on the Principles of Learning go to: http://www.instituteforlearning.org/