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The Architecture of Learning

So in order to write this post I was forced to squeeze past the couple of feeble drafts of posts that I began writing this summer. My apologies to the blogging groups that I belong to. It's tough to write in the summer, to sit down and tap out ideas when my son wants to play badminton...

I recently read Annie Murphy Paul's short article on MindShift called Discovering Better Ways to Learn as an Adult. I was drawn to it because I really was not much of a learner until i was in my early thirties, when I really began to look around myself and wonder. I wish that I had been as avid a learner when I was younger as I am now. But I was interested in other things, and that can't be changed. As an educator, my fascination now is learning about how students learn. Of course, that immediately brings you face to face with the fact that so much of what we do in our schools flies in the face of what we know about how kids learn!

Reading the article made me reflect on what guides my understanding of learning, and for the last year or so I have been thinking about a couple of ideas that are important. I am certain that they are fundamental pillars in the architecture of an effective learning environment, but I hesitate to rank them alongside other ideas that you and others might add to my two.

Public Domain


Without allowing oneself to become vulnerable, it is difficult to acquire depth in learning. A student needs an environment where she can allow herself the luxury of unfolding the map of how she sees things, with the trust that no-one will begin to judge and discredit the work that she has done. She needs to trust the positive intentions of those around her, and be ready and willing to dismantle pieces of learning that she might hold very dear, and to assimilate into her new map alternative ideas provided by others.

broken image


I teach a grade 8 Genius Hour course, where the students are given charge of their learning. This is so hard for them (and me to help them!) to take that initiative. It is the exact opposite of what makes a student successful at regular school. Students are so confused when you ask them to choose their own direction. I feel like if they are to achieve any real depth in learning, they need to be interacting with a topic and a project that matters to them. The struggle continues in my classroom.

What are the pillars that you think are necessary for deep learning. I would love to hear about your ideas, and begin to explore them.