Principles of a learning environment

When developing a learning environment, the key considerations include what the central core of the learning activities propose to foster, and how they are spread across the course. As teachers, we can create various types of ‘centred’ learning environments:

Community-centred. Learner-centred. Knowledge-centred. Assessment-centred.

Image from: Taken from: Bransford, J., Brown, A., & Cocking, R. (2000).  How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition.

Learner-centred environments

Learner-centred environments are designed for the active construction of knowledge by and for learners. What students bring to the learning environment and what they are actually learning (as opposed to what they are being taught) are central to the notion of learner-centredness.  Examples include:

  • Learner predictions - Students are asked to make a prediction about the trajectory of an arrow and teacher uses these predictions to uncover and deal with their misconceptions.
  • Learner discussion -Students leads a discussion of a classic piece of literature designed to bring out and value students' multiple perspectives on the novel.
  • Learner reflection -Teacher helps students to see that many of their forms of everyday speech are examples of a very high form of literacy.
Knowledge-centred learning environments

Knowledge-centred learning environments are those which support students' deep investigations of big ideas through generative learning activities which include opportunities for reflection, discussion, and feedback.  Examples include:

  • Pre-assessment of learners - Teacher gives a pre-assessment to uncover the understandings students are bringing to her class.
  • In-depth projects -Course on Shakespeare emphasises depth by covering just one play from a variety of perspectives and ending in a performance.
Assessment-centred learning environments

Assessment-centred learning environments provide frequent, ongoing, and varying opportunities for assessment, including opportunities for revision and for self and peer assessment.  Examples include:

  • Re-do an assessment piece – Students are encouraged to redo a written assignment for a higher mark based on teacher feedback.
  • Final assessment - Final statistics assessment gives students a data set and ten questions about it that students answer using their choice of statistical tools.
Community-centred environments

Community-centred environments value collaboration, the negotiation of meaning, respect for the multiple perspectives around which knowledge is constructed, and connections to the local community and culture. Examples include:

  • Group productions - Students on a computing course work in groups to produce web pages for local non-profit organisations.
  • Reporting back to the group - Collaborative groups discuss a 'real world' issue and 'report out' their solutions to the larger group.

Resources, strategies or assistance

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