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Stella Vosniadou
International Academy of Education - International Bureau of Education / UNESCO.
School Directors, Researchers, Teachers, Policy Makers
Over 10 pages
In this booklet, the psychological principles about how children learn are described. At the beginning, three principles that are widely recognized by recent research finding as forming the basis on which teachers should design the learning environments of today’s schools are discussed. Namely, the following three principles are discussed: 1) the principle of the active involvement of the learner in the learning process; 2) the principle of social participation, which takes into account the important fact that learning is primarily a social activity and therefore participation of the learner in the social life of the school is central for learning to be accomplished; and 3) the principle of meaning activities, according to which people learn best when they are given the opportunity to participate in activities that are perceived to be useful in real life and at the same time culturally relevant.
Thereafter, the author briefly discusses seven principles which focus on cognitive factors that are primarily internal, but also interact with environmental factors in important ways. Teachers need to take these principles into consideration in order to design more effective curricula and instruction. Namely these seven principles are the following: 1) the principle of relating new information to prior knowledge; 2) the principle of being strategic; 3) the principle of engaging in self-regulation and being reflective; 4) the principle of restructuring prior knowledge; 5) the principle of aiming towards understanding rather than memorization; 6) the principle of helping students learn to transfer; and 7) the principle of taking time to practice.
Finally, two principles which are related to developmental and individual differences, and motivational influences on learning come up for discussion.
The booklet distinguishes between two kinds of motivation: extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation results when positive rewards are used to increase the frequency of target behaviour. Praise, high grades, awards, money and food can be used for that effect. Intrinsic motivation occurs when learners actively participate in activities without having to be rewarded for it. Intrinsically motivated learners are easy to recognize because they have a passion for achieving their goals and are ready to put a great deal of effort. They also show considerable determination and persistence. This influences the amount and quality of what is learned.
Teachers can help students become more motivated learners by their behaviour and the statements they make. They must use encouraging statements that reflect an honest evaluation of learner performance. The author suggests teachers to recognize student accomplishments, to help students believe in themselves and set realistic goals, to provide feedback to learners about the strategies they use and instruction on to how to improve them.
It is also important for teachers to refrain from grouping students according to their ability and to promote co-operation rather than competition. Novel and interesting tasks that challenge learners’ curiosity and higher-order thinking skills at the appropriate level of difficulty are also suggested.
This document was selected because the psychological principles described, critically summarize some of the most important results of recent research on learning that is relevant for education. The document refers to the international public and it is written by an author of Greek origin who has research and professional experience both in Greece and abroad. It is important to note, that even though the results presented are based on rigorous scientific research, the language used is amenable also to the non-expert and this makes this document very appealing. Useful original references are provided in the end of every short section, providing thus the possibility for more in depth engagement with the specific principle relative to which the reader would wish to learn more about.

The author makes an attempt to integrate research findings coming from diverse areas of psychology, including educational, developmental, cognitive, social and clinical psychology. This research has offered us new insights into the learning process and the development of knowledge in many subject-matter areas. Among the described principles the one presented last, focuses on the motivational influences on learning. The teachers of all levels of education can get interesting insights on the importance of the motivational influences on the learning process and also practical advice on how student (learner) motivation can be enhanced. We also note that, although each (of the twelve in total) principle is explained on its own, all principles are best understood as an organized whole with one supporting all the others.

This document suggests practices that are likely to be generally applicable throughout the world. Even so, these practices should be assessed with reference to local conditions, and adapted accordingly. In every educational setting, suggestions or guidelines for practice require sensitive and sensible application, and continuing evaluation.
T.E.I of Ionian Islands - Department of Environmental Technology and Ecology

Comments about this Publication

Your comments are welcome

Date: 2014.05.20

Posted by Mariusz Jarocki (Poland)

Message: The paper describes the psychological principles and some of the important results of recent research on learning. First, an active involvement is mentioned and research findings connected to it. The author lists suggestions how to create interesting learning environment, which are very relevant to the mission of the Chemistry is All Around Network project. The same way is used to describe respectively: social participation, meaningful activities, relating new information to prior knowledge, being strategic, engaging in self-regulation, restructuring knowledge, aiming towards understanding and helping students learn to transfer, taking time to practice, developmental and individual differences, and at last, creating motivated learners.

The booklet has a very interesting, regular and rhythmic form, with addictive language. The paper contains some well-known conclusions, but the form and condensed view of all these facts make it very impressive and useful to broaden horizons in the subject of learning. I recommend readling the booklet especially to teachers. It is not strictly connected to chemistry learning or any level of school.

Date: 2012.10.03

Posted by Antonella Lotti (Italy)

Message: This booklet, which is part of the Educational practice series by UNESCO, describes in very simple way the principles of learning.
It illustrates the importance of the following concepts:
Active involvement,
Social participation,
Meaningful activities,
Relating new information to prior knowledge, Being strategic,
Engaging in self-regulation and being reflective,
Restructuring prior knowledge,
Aiming towards understanding rather than memorization, 

Helping students learn to transfer,
Taking time to practice,
Identifying developmental and individul differences,
Creating motivated learners.
It’s useful because it describes, in a very simple and attractive way, some principles of learning and the successful practices to adopt in class.
Teachers become aware of the importance of an active learning and a student centred education, instead of a passive and a teacher centred approach.

National Reports on successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry The national reports on chemistry successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry are now available on the related section of the project portal. The reports presents examples of successful experiences in the partner countries and the results of testing of ICT resources with science teachers.