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Designing effective learning environments, principles of action.

January 7, 2017

What are core principles that go into designing effective student learning environments?

  1. Design exercises that put students in situations where they have to express their thinking, receiving feedback from peers (think-pair-share) or from the teacher in larger group discussions.  Use techniques that help student make their thinking visible to themselves and others.
  2. Design feedback so that it guides improvement in learning or mastery of the learning goals.  Feedback can come from teachers, peers or self.  It can be most powerful when it comes in small doses, is specific and timely, leads towards growth, and is not graded.
  3. Design exercises that rely on collaboration so that all voices are at the table.  For this principle to be effective teachers must allocate time to instruct students on how to work in teams, share space and be respectful to others.
  4. Design learning environments so that all students are active participants.  You have heard the expression: the person doing the speaking is doing the learning.  Participation should not be dependent on “right answer” contributions, but it should facilitate risk-taking and expression of one’s understanding.

Designing with these principles in mind will likely lead to learning environments that engage students in the work at hand.  All teachers are designers at heart, but most teachers need design protocols to create effective, interesting, and meaningful lessons.

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