Research brief: Good learning involves direct experience, focus, motivation, and relationships

Quoted from “Conditions of Learning” – A research brief from the What Kids Can Do site How Youth Learn: A Portfolio to Inform and Inspire Educators, Students, Parents & More

In a recent paper, “Realizing the Potential of Learning in Middle Adolescence,” cognitive psychologists Robert Halpern, Paul Heckman, and Rick Larson remind us:

  • Good learning involves direct experience, “deep immersion in a consequential activity” (Bruner, 1966).
  • Learning works best when young people can focus in depth on a few things at a time; when they see a clear purpose in learning activities; and when they have an active role—co-constructing, interpreting, applying, making sense of something, making connections.
  • Motivation is a powerful engine for learning, and the right conditions can foster it. Motivation to learn is stronger when it emerges from the young person’s prior knowledge and interests, when it springs not from reward or punishment but from the task itself, and when it is driven by a desire for mastery and by identification with
    others who do it well.
  • Learning is often most effective when it is social; when it occurs as a shared activity within meaningful relationships; and when it allows for increasingly responsible participation—within a tradition, or a community of fellow learners, or one’s culture at large.

The bottom line: Young people can be—and want to be—fully engaged learners. The evaluation research on longstanding school networks that put these principles into practice—like Expeditionary Learning, Big Picture, Early College High School, and High Tech High—finds deeply engaged students motivated to do their best (National Research Council and the Institutes of Medicine, 2004; Castellano, Stringfield & Stone, 2003; Kemple, Hirliahiy & Smith, 2005).

The prevailing narrative, however, is one of student disengagement.

Read the rest of the research brief at “Conditions of Learning”

But look how beautifully supports hands-on, authentic learning advocated by educators involved in the Making in Education movement!

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