First principles for promoting meaningful learning
Harold I. Modell,
Physiology Educational Research Consortium, Seattle, WA
When meaningful learning or learning with understanding takes place, students are able to apply information that is being acquired to solve novel problems. Most teachers agree that their goal is to have students learn their discipline(s) in ways that will be beneficial to their students’ lives. To reach this goal, teachers must establish a learning environment in which students will engage in meaningful learning. Such an environment has certain characteristics related to student behavior, the learning process, and the role of the instructor in the process. The design of a successful environment in this regard is derived from a set of first principles of classroom practice. These represent the assumptions and definitions on which all activities in the classroom are based. The following principles (presented in no particular order) are what I follow to promote a meaningful learning environment: 1) Students must take responsibility for their own learning. 2) Our job is to help the learner to learn. 3) Students come to us with prior knowledge. 4) Life is cumulative! 5) We must help students make their current mental model visible. 6) We must create safe learning environments.