5 Learning Principles We Rely On to Improve Student Engagement

The research backs up what every teacher intuitively knows: students learn best when they’re actively engaged in their learning. Engaged students perform better across nearly all metrics, and leave high school prepared for the challenges of college, career and life in general. 

Today I’d like to talk about the 5 Key Principles we rely on when we design our learning activities and projects, online tools, resources, and courses for teachers. All of these Principles are supported by decades of research in Education, Learning Sciences, and Cognitive Psychology. While each of these Principles is valuable in its own right, it’s when they overlap and interact that real transformation can occur. 


1: Learning Requires Engagement

We know from experience that we learn by asking questions about the world and seeking answers. Being a mere observer isn’t enough. 

Learning is an active, ongoing process of trial and error, and students must be drivers of the processes of discovery and understanding. This includes everything from formulating questions, creating potential solutions, trying them out and subsequently refining actions. 


2: Learning Improves with Practice

Learning is not a one-and-done activity. Skill-building is a process that requires dedicated, ongoing practice. Developing deep knowledge in an area also requires time and practice.

Because we believe that learning improves with practice, we focus on providing teachers with the resources to help their students learn about, practice, and cultivate skills and knowledge over time. The goal is to empower students to become capable of identifying areas for improvement. Once they can address those aspects, we work with them to practice and refine their skills. We’ve found that this empowers students to improve their work in ways that spill over into other areas of their lives outside of the classroom.


3: We Learn Better Together

While learning is often measured via individual performance, it’s impossible to gain skills and real insights without connecting to and receiving feedback from others. Peers, mentors, family members and subject matter experts can all contribute to a student’s learning and personal growth.

Research demonstrates that collaboration can inspire creativity and innovation. We encourage teachers to create a classroom environment where students share their successes and failures, explore discoveries, and support each other in their learning.


4: Learning Is Happening Everywhere, All the Time

This is evident from watching small children: they’re constantly learning. Wherever they go, with or without formal instruction or classrooms, young children are always picking up and applying new information and skills.

This pattern holds for all ages. We can learn from any and every situation we’re in, which is why we emphasize learning both in and out of school. Students who have learned how to learn can maximize the learning potential inherent in every situation. 


5: Learning Drives Personal Growth

Meaningful learning is about more than just simply concept acquisition. It’s a process that changes how we understand ourselves, the world around us, and where we fit in it. 

Helping students develop the skills needed to become lifelong learners empowers them to broaden their understanding of the world and their place in it. Students who possess these skills can embrace and master new challenges and opportunities with curiosity, creativity, and success. 

One of the resources we’re most excited about right now is our new Feedback Forward browser extension. This tool is a great way for teachers to provide feedback to students and engage them in all the ways reflected in our 5 Principles. 

Click here to learn more and take a tour of Feedback Forward’s features. 

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