News

          See All Our Past Newsletters Here


Design Principles,  Emotional Goals and Learning – Definitions and Links

selected by Celia Franzè

Design principles

Principles guide the choices Designers make as they create. Principles apply at all levels of design from broad concept to small detail. For example: Do no harm (Hippocrates), meet user goals. Create the simplest complete solution (Ockham). Create viable and feasible systems (Dubberly, 2001, p. 13).

Design Principles for Schools

1. Learning is social, emotional, cognitive, and academic.

How does any student become a productive learner? What skills must they have? The science tells us that learning is integrated: There are not separate parts of the brain that support academic skills and social skills, for example. The parts of the brain are cross-wired and functionally interconnected. For students to become engaged, effective learners, educators need to simultaneously develop content-specific knowledge and skills along with cognitive, emotional, and social skills. These skills, including executive functions, growth mindset, social awareness, resilience and perseverance, metacognition, curiosity, and self-direction, are malleable: They are not “hardwired” but develop in response to experience. All are correlated with achievement, and all can be taught, modelled, and practiced just like traditional academic skills.

2. Social, emotional, and cognitive skills are interrelated and develop as a progression. 

Cognitive skills like self-regulation, executive functions, and problem-solving interact with emotional skills, such as empathy, emotion recognition, and regulation, and with social skills, including cooperation and communication. These interacting skills develop progressively, but not as a fixed, linear sequence: As with other skills, there are bursts and plateaus. Higher-order skills and abilities, when present, are a combination of foundational social, emotional, cognitive, and academic skill development. When teachers understand that these skills progress in concert with one another, they can design learning experiences that simultaneously build diverse learning skills, supporting engagement and effort instead of singularly focusing on facts and procedures in a given area without attending to social and emotional considerations.

3. Learning of these skills is influenced by relationships and experiences. 

Learning is highly context sensitive. A child’s skill and mindset development relies on an ongoing, dynamic interconnectedness between biology and environment, including relationships and cultural and contextual influences, resulting in significant variation within and across individuals over time. This contrasts with the idea of universal, fixed steps or stages of development. The norm is diverse developmental pathways—not missed opportunities, but rather multiple opportunities to develop new skills and/or catch up. Because each student’s development is nonlinear, with its own unique pathways and pacing that are highly responsive to positive contextual influences and support, the unique challenge of schools is to design personalised, supportive developmental learning experiences for all children, no matter their starting point.

This extends to the development of social, emotional, and cognitive skills, which should be taught throughout childhood and adolescence and may need particular attention when students face chronic, unbuffered stress due to adversity or oppression. In these cases, the development of foundational skills and mindsets, including self-regulation, stress management, and executive function, are at risk. These skills are exquisitely sensitive to the hormone cortisol.

Neuroplasticity

The primary energy source for the wiring of the brain is human connection; the neurochemicals and hormones that are released through human relationships are the fuel causing neurons to fire and connect. As Hebb’s Law states, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” The brain gets increasingly wired, and as it does, we become able to do increasingly complex things, whether it is reading, riding a bike, or gaining resilience. In his 1984 2 Sigma study, Benjamin Bloom demonstrated that building highly favourable conditions into the environments in which children grow and learn steeply improves equity of experience and opportunity. His proxy for highly favourable conditions was an individual tutor. He found that the experience of individual tutoring could take a student performing at the 50th percentile and move their performance up by two standard deviations to the 98th percentile. When he studied his data, he realised that the active ingredient that generated the outcomes he got was access to both the content and the adult– student interaction—the relationship.

In addition, it is equally important to attend to the cognitive skills that are important for academic success and development. Key among these are those related to executive function(link is external), which help learners attend to tasks, plan their work, problem-solve in the face of emerging challenges, and manage themselves in the learning process. These skills include the abilities to monitor and regulate one’s own actions; to organise, prioritise, and activate efforts in order to accomplish tasks; to focus, sustain, and shift attention and alertness as needed to attain goals; and to manage frustration and redirect efforts when needed. The skills that are critical to success in school and in life are often assumed, rather than explicitly taught, and need an equally explicit curricular approach.

Emotional Goals

Emotional Goals are predictive conceptual abstractions that construct social reality, in a collective with other brains. By sharing and synchronising those abstractions we can perceive each other’s emotions and communicate.

Agent-oriented Modelling of Emotional Goals

As digital technologies increase in complexity and collaboration with other disciplines is necessary, a trans-disciplinary approach for developing sociotechnical systems is required, where digital media design practices may be incorporated into software engineering. Agent-oriented models show potential, not only to identify and realise emotional goals, but also to provide an overall progressive evaluation of these goals

To promote the consideration of human factors Marshall proposes a new category of goal, called an emotional goal, to be modelled with equal hierarchy to functional and quality goals. By incorporating emotional goals into agent-oriented models the aim is to signal that the goal may be best realised by a trans-disciplinary approach. When these goals are encountered by software engineers they should seek a domain knowledge expert to apply digital media design methodologies and processes.

Adapted from http://www.dubberly.com/author/hugh, https://k12.designprinciples.org/development-skills-habits-and-mindsets and http://emotionalgoals.com/

STERLING, L. & MARSHALL, J. G. 2022. Humans are not rational; artificial agents are not emotional. WOA2022: Workshop from Objects to Agents.

MARSHALL, J. 2021. Towards Wonderful Design, Elements, Principles, Methods & Applications. PhD, Swinburne University. 

 


 Guiding Students to Develop a Flexible Mindset

by Susannah Cole and Julie Dunstan

You’re already familiar with growth mindsets and the importance of belief systems that reframe notions of intelligence and our responses to failures. But you may have struggled with how to convince your students that they are smart while encouraging them to persist in the face of setbacks. Mindsets are more than a poster on the wall. We can’t simply tell our students to “get grit.”

Flexible mindsets go beyond growth mindsets by leveraging both the self-awareness and strategies needed to actualize a growth mindset. A flexible mindset is the interaction between self-awareness, adaptive strategy use, and perseverance that empowers learners to evolve and become self-directed.

ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF A FLEXIBLE MINDSET
There are three key components to the flexible mindsets approach that feed each other and propel students along the path of directing their own learning journey.

Metacognition: At the core of all deeper learning is our awareness of and ability to reflect upon our own thinking and learning, or metacognition. Self-directed learners are driven by metacognitive insights, those “uh-oh” moments when we notice that what we’re doing isn’t working and engage in deep self-reflection about our own learning.

Positive thinking: Upon this foundation we can build I can mindset messages that tell us we can always learn and get smarter and there is value in mistakes and not knowing. The flexible mindsets framework differs from growth mindsets by being explicit about fusing our encouragement to keep trying with direct instruction and feedback about adaptive strategy use.

Executive function strategies: In our model, executive function (EF) is a set of interrelated processes such as planning, working memory, self-monitoring, and thinking flexibly. We need EF processes to understand what we need to do, figure out how to get there, and make it happen. Simply put, it’s how we get stuff done.

This flexible mindset framework provides strategies you can use to give your students the tools they need to learn how to learn. Metacognitive insights and executive function strategies are the perfect partners to propel your students beyond growth mindsets.

5 KEY TOOLS TO DEVELOP FLEXIBLE MINDSETS

Build trusting relationships. We can begin by examining our own cultural attitudes, values, fears, and beliefs about children; how these affect our actions; and how our previous life experiences can influence current behaviors. Trust follows with the intentional use of language that tells students we are authentic, receptive, solution oriented, reliable, and committed to their needs. This lays the groundwork for co-learning and other key drivers of flexible mindsets.

Ground our learning in metacognition. This focuses attention on self-awareness, the perspectives of others, and what works when. Flexible mindsets extend beyond traditional measures of metacognition by building self-awareness around capacities such as curiosity, adaptability, critical thinking, complex problem-solving, and creativity.

Teach about the brain and mistakes. Children as young as 4 can begin to explore the brain and how we learn. Students at all levels can be taught to describe simple functions of the brain and identify their personal learning-related strengths and areas for improvement. Educators can be equipped with the science of learning: how stress can hijack the prefrontal cortex and what happens in the brain when we make mistakes. This paves the way for us to normalize mistakes, teach students the value of not knowing, and model how to grapple with material to make it their own.

Provide direct instruction in learning strategies. Flexible mindsets require students to use effective strategies that are based on current evidence about how the brain learns. These strategies need to be taught purposefully, directly, and frequently for students to experience the benefits of studying smarter and appreciate the value of focusing not only on the content of what they are learning but also on how they are learning. This helps students buy into the effort required to learn and apply new strategies.
Most students have never been taught how they learn, and the strategies they come up with on their own are often ineffective. The most straightforward way to teach students about strategies is by modeling, labeling, and sharing a variety of actual strategies being used in the classroom.

Give feedback based on strategy use. As opposed to effort only, strategy-based feedback is specific enough that it can be measured, worked on, and used to track progress. We define flexible mindset feedback as responses that are solution-oriented, empathetic, and targeted at specific strategies. This feedback encourages us to try a different approach to a problem. Feedback is powerful when learners reflect on questions such as What strategies did I try? What am I doing that is working and not working? How many attempts did I make

Ultimately, if we believe in equity, solutions can be found in equipping all learners with the tools they need to respond resiliently and adaptively to uncertainty and adversity. It’s time to be intentional in preparing students to be curious, make mistakes, and take risks for learning.

Originally published 21st July 2022 © Edutopia.org; George Lucas Educational Foundation


 

How to get students thinking about their own learning

by Nina Parrish

When students begin to plan, monitor, and evaluate their learning, they develop self-regulation and can set more ambitious goals.

As a special education teacher and K–12 tutor, I found that students were often told what to learn but were rarely taught how to learn, which had the potential to leave them stuck, anxious, and disengaged. My desire to teach students strategies they could use to develop their own agency and independence led me to write my book, The Independent Learner.

Metacognition refers to a student’s knowledge of their own thought process. A metacognitive thinking process allows students to self-regulate and direct their thoughts, behaviors, and actions toward their goals. As early as kindergarten, teachers can instruct students in how to build their metacognitive skills through a process of planning, monitoring, and evaluating their learning. Once students reach third grade, they can begin to use these strategies with increased choice and independence.

PLANNING

When students begin working without a plan, they become easily confused and overwhelmed by the task. They may give up, get distracted, or become off-task very easily. Taking time to plan can help students avoid these issues. Planning can include previewing the task, setting goals, deciding how to approach the task, and connecting to previously learned information. The following strategies help students to plan.

Building prior knowledge: Teachers can help students build prior knowledge by connecting new information to what students already know. This might look like having students brainstorm in groups to answer a question, watch a short introductory video clip or demonstration, or look at and discuss pictures or objects related to the topic that will be studied. A strong foundation of background knowledge can help students to accurately make predictions and prioritize information during the lesson.

Goal setting: Having students set goals and track progress is linked to a 32 percent increase in achievement. Teachers can help students to set short-term goals related to the skill they are learning as well as the student’s long-term personal goals and values.

Planning the process: We have all had the experience of setting goals, only to lose the motivation and follow-through necessary to make them a reality. Teachers can help students think about the changes they need to make in their daily behavior and habits in order to get from where they are now to where they want to be. Students can make a plan or checklist and use this to monitor their daily progress or the baby steps toward their goal.

MONITOR

Students who are having trouble monitoring don’t know when to seek help or may be overly dependent on the teacher to make sure they are doing their work correctly. They may lack a sense of self-efficacy or the belief that their efforts affect their actions or fail to change their approach when it is not working. When a student is monitoring their learning, they are assessing their level of understanding and trying to determine whether the strategy they have selected is working. The following strategies help students monitor.

Metacognitive talk: When students are learning a new skill, the teacher can model thinking aloud to make the thought process visible for students. This helps them to develop the complex thinking skills necessary for that subject area. The teacher can encourage students to use discussion to construct knowledge instead of just participating to display what they know. Strategies like think-pair-share or visually explaining the steps of their thinking help students to understand that there are many ways to approach a particular problem or task.

Analyze, prioritize, summarize: Students can be taught various methods of summarizing information and isolating key facts, details, and keywords. One method that students enjoy is a one-pager.

Diversify: When approaching a new learning task, it is important for students to know many ways to solve a problem or approach the skill. Strategies that mix verbal and visual information make learning more memorable. When students are familiar with many strategies, they have the tools necessary to exercise their own agency in selecting what works best for them.

EVALUATE

If students are not evaluating their learning, they often do not understand how to use strategies in other contexts or for future problem-solving. They may know that they got something wrong but are not able to tell you why or what they should do differently next time to avoid that same issue. To evaluate their learning, students consider whether the strategy they chose worked and what they would change for next time. The following strategies help students to evaluate.

Assess: Testing should be used during learning, not just once learning is complete. Students can create their own practice tests or test questions, or teachers can use pre- and post-tests with clickers to find out what students know, help students to prioritize important information, and assess learning during the lesson.

Seek feedback: In the classroom, the teacher acts as a coach to students, providing information about learning goals and progress. Successful feedback should not shame students or focus on personal qualities but instead should answer these questions:

  • What am I working toward?
  • What progress have I made so far?
  • Where do I go from here?

Reflect and revise: After assessment, self-assessment, or feedback, students reflect on whether the strategy they are using is working. Then they decide what changes they need to make. Students may also consider areas where they need to seek out help. When they revise, students consider what did not go so well and fix it. They should be able to explain their mistake or what did not work and then select a strategy to correct their work. As you might notice, this starts the metacognition cycle back at the planning stage.

The only way to make learning truly relevant to each student is to teach the tools and strategies they will need to take a more active role in their learning. Incorporating metacognitive skills and self-regulated learning strategies has helped my students to become more independent, engaged, and capable of exercising their own agency.

Originally published 5th May 2022 © Edutopia.org; George Lucas Educational Foundation


 

What is the ‘Science of Learning’

by Celia Franzè

Neuroscience in education has faced some harsh critics in the past. Many commentators accounted that the concept would never amount to measurable improved learning outcomes (Bruer, 1997). Yet, others closer to classroom practice chose to forge ahead with research to explore successful impacts on learning by considering a multidisciplinary approach; Psychology, Education and Neuroscience. (Horvath and Donoghue, 2016). This approach is what we call ‘The Science of Learning.’ At ThinkPlus, we develop our educational design research projects and teacher professional learning based on these principles. (Sterner, 2019, McKenney and Reeves, 2018)

In 2022, this is what we now know.

Developing executive function in children is critical. The part of the brain most affected by early stress is the pre-frontal cortex, which is essential to self-regulatory activities of all kinds – both emotional and cognitive (Neumann and Tillott, 2021). As a result, children who experience stress generally find it harder to concentrate, relax, rebound from disappointment, and, more challenging, follow directions, all directly affecting their performance at school. Improving executive function indicates that it can close the achievement gap in children far more than just focussing on cognitive skill development.

Executive functions, as now understood, are a collection of high-order mental abilities. They refer to the ability to deal with confusing and unpredictable situations and information. According to current research, executive function skills are highly predictive of success; they are also malleable, much more than other cognitive skills. ThinkPlus resources are developed to account for this and respond accurately to age-based developmental attainment and readiness for learning (Vlasblom et al., 2019).

The pre-frontal cortex is more responsive to interventions than other parts of the brain, and it stays flexible well into adolescence and early adulthood (Barrett, 2009, Horvath and Donoghue, 2016). So if we can improve a child’s environment in specific ways that lead to better executive functioning, we can increase their prospects for success in a particularly efficient way– this has been key in our thinking in the design of ThinkPlus. We continually test the following hypothesis through our research in schools.

How can we prevent disengagement and build resilience so that young learners are capable of navigating their learning and the world beyond school?

The key to ThinkPlus is that intelligence can be grown with effort. By co-designing teaching and learning resources with teachers, parents, students and academics, the conceptual ‘growth mindsets’ beginnings have gone beyond the foundational rhetoric (Dweck, 2017, Yeager and Dweck, 2012, Masters, 2014) It has matured to become a metacurriculum overlay unveiled across the Australian Curriculum. Driven by sound evidence that when students have the self-belief that they can change their intelligence, personality and character,  belief enables them to fulfil their potential, and it assists teachers leverage that to achieve educational outcomes (Marks, 2017)

Teaching thinking is not enough; we need to create a culture – of resilience, mindfulness, self-regulation and the concept that we are malleable, not fixed entities. We can re-imagine learning as we prepare our children for the challenges ahead. Being mindful enhances self-awareness, which can assist in making deliberate choices on how we respond to a given situation (Neumann and Tillott, 2021).

Mindful behavioural reactions to stressful events can improve our ability to apply emotional regulation, which decreases stress cortisol. Through the prefrontal cortex, the individual can develop a clear perspective and apply known strategies and knowledge with a sense of calmness when stress arises (Huebner, 2022, Barrett, 2017).

When teachers know the school curriculum well, we are free to creatively focus on young learners’ capacity to learn and strengthen and develop their brains. Expert teachers know children don’t come with a fixed intelligence but experience brain changes every step of the way while learning. They also know emotional resilience is key to overcoming challenges to learning (Horvath, 2019, Tillott et al., 2021).

Self-efficacy is necessary for a student to exert effort and persist in overcoming obstacles and setbacks to perform a task effectively. Self-efficacy can be increased by self-persuasion or persuasion by a significant other or incentives and rewards. (Kingsley and Grabner-Hagen, 2018, Dweck and Master, 2009). Developing motivational, and emotional goals increases student agency and teacher efficacy in providing feedback (Marshall, 2021, Stuckey, 2018, Mohammed and Ozdamli, 2021). The immediate post-pandemic era in education invites gamification of curriculum and animated pedagogical agents to support learning.

In conclusion, neuroscience in education is here to stay. Through partnering with experts and schools, educational design research and continuous review and improvement, ThinkPlus and Elevo Institute foster and share, in the lifelong learning mindset culture empowering our schools to excel creatively.

 

All welcome on this journey!


REFERENCES

BARRETT, L. F. 2009. The Future of Psychology: Connecting Mind to Brain. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4, 326-339.

BARRETT, L. F. 2017. The theory of constructed emotion: an active inference account of interoception and categorization. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci, 12, 1-23.

BRUER, J. T. 1997. Education and the brain: A bridge too far. Educational researcher, 26, 4-16.

DWECK, C. 2017. Mindset-updated edition: Changing the way you think to fulfil your potential, Hachette UK.

DWECK, C. S. & MASTER, A. 2009. Self-theories and motivation. Handbook of motivation at school, 123.

HORVATH, J. C. 2019. Happiness…really!? Idiom, 55, 12.

HORVATH, J. C. & DONOGHUE, G. M. 2016. A Bridge Too Far – Revisited: Reframing Bruer’s Neuroeducation Argument for Modern Science of Learning Practitioners. Front Psychol, 7, 377-377.

HUEBNER, D. 2022. FACING MIGHTY FEARS ABOUT HEALTH: ENGAGING ANSWERS TO CHILDREN’S WORRIES. How It Works Magazine, 91.

KINGSLEY, T. L. & GRABNER-HAGEN, M. M. 2018. Vocabulary by Gamification. The Reading Teacher, 71, 545-555.

MARKS, G. N. 2017. Is SES really that important for educational outcomes in Australia? A review and some recent evidence. The Australian Educational Researcher, 44, 191-211.

MARSHALL, J. 2021. Towards Wonderful Design: Elements, Principles, Methods & Applications

. PhD, Swinburne University.

MASTERS, G. N. 2014. Towards a growth mindset in assessment. Practically primary, 19, 4-7.

MCKENNEY, S. & REEVES, T. C. 2018. Conducting educational design research, Routledge.

MOHAMMED, Y. B. & OZDAMLI, F. 2021. Motivational Effects of Gamification Apps in Education: A Systematic Literature Review. BRAIN: Broad Research in Artificial Intelligence & Neuroscience, 12, 122-138.

NEUMANN, M. M. & TILLOTT, S. 2021. Why should teachers cultivate resilience through mindfulness? Journal of psychologists and counsellors in schools, 1-12.

STERNER, H. E. K. 2019. Teachers as actors in an educational design research: What is behind the generalized formula? Lumat: International Journal of Math, Science and Technology Education, 7, 6.

STUCKEY, B. 2018. Pathways Across the Australian Curriculum.

TILLOTT, S., WEATHERBY-FELL, N., PEARSON, P. & NEUMANN, M. M. 2021. Using storytelling to unpack resilience theory in accordance with an internationally recognised resilience framework with primary school children. Journal of Psychologists and Counsellors in Schools, 1-12.

VLASBLOM, E., BOERE-BOONEKAMP, M. M., HAFKAMP-DE GROEN, E., DUSSELDORP, E., VAN DOMMELEN, P. & VERKERK, P. H. 2019. Predictive validity of developmental milestones for detecting limited intellectual functioning. PLoS One, 14, e0214475-e0214475.

YEAGER, D. S. & DWECK, C. S. 2012. Mindsets that promote resilience: When students believe that personal characteristics can be developed. Educational psychologist, 47, 302-314.