7 Principles of Learning – the short version

Seven principles of learning, the foundation of a Principles-of-Learning Framework (Weibell, 2011), form the basis of this blog. Future posts will elaborate on these seven principles of learning and explore how the Principles-of-Learning Framework can be applied to a mass educational transformation that is now taking place in public education—toward student-centered, data-informed, teacher-led, personalized learning in the technology-enhanced, blended learning classroom.

Principle #1 – Potential. Humans are endowed with an inherent potential for increase in capacity, the establishment of habit, and the definition of being.

Principle #2 – Target. Human potential may be channeled intentionally toward a specific, predetermined target of learning, or will otherwise follow incidentally from the conditions to which a person is subjected.

Principle #3 – Change. Learning is a specific type of change, which is governed by principles of (a) repetition, (b) time, (c) step size, (d) sequence, (e) contrast, (f) significance, and (g) feedback.

Principle #4 – Practice. Principles of change are activated and aligned with learning targets through models of practice, exercise, or experience.

Principle #5 – Context. Learning is facilitated by a context of practice that is the same as, or accurately represents, the context of performance.

Principle #6 – Engagement. Learners will often engage in certain activities as a matter of habit, though they are also influenced by their current capacity to engage, as well as factors of motivation and inhibition related to the activity as a whole, part of the activity, its circumstances, or its expected results.

Principle #7 – Agency. Learners are not passive recipients of learning, but active agents with the ability to choose how they will apply their attention and effort, and to choose what learning activities they will engage in. Others may exercise their agency to promote or inhibit the agency of the learner, and may play a role in facilitating or impeding successful learning.

Weibell, C. J. (2011). Principles of learning: A conceptual framework for domain-specific theories of learning. 

The Principles-of-Learning Framework

(Originally Published June 2011)

Principles of Learning: A Conceptual Framework
for Domain-Specific Theories of Learning

Christian J. Weibell (we’-bull)

Doctor of Philosophy

This study is predicated on the belief that there does not now exist, nor will there ever exist, any single theory of learning that is broad enough to account for all types of learning yet specific enough to be maximally useful in practical application. Perhaps this dichotomy is the reason for the apparent gap between existing theories of learning and the practice of instructional design. As an alternative to any supposed grand theory of learning this study proposes a shift toward principles. It presents a principle-based conceptual framework of learning, and recommends use of the framework as a guide for creating domain-specific theories of learning.

The purpose of this study was to review theories of learning in the behavioral, cognitive, constructive, human, and social traditions to identify principles of learning local to those theories that might represent specific instances of more universal principles, fundamentally requisite to the facilitation of learning in general. Many of the ideas reviewed have resulted from, or been supported by, direct empirical evidence. Others have been suggested based on observational or practical experience of the theorist. The ideas come from different points in time, are described from a variety of perspectives, and emphasize different aspects and types of learning; yet there are a number of common themes shared among them regarding the means by which learning occurs. It is hypothesized that such themes represent universal and fundamental principles of learning. These principles were the objective of the present study. They have been sought through careful review and analysis of both theoretical and empirical literature by methods of textual research (Clingan, 2008) and constant comparative analysis (Glaser & Strauss, 1967).  By way of textual research a methodological lens was defined to identify general themes, and by way of constant comparative analysis these themes were developed further through the analysis and classification of specific instances of those themes in the texts reviewed. Ten such principles were identified: repetitiontimestep size, sequencecontrastsignificancefeedbackcontextengagement, and agency. These ten facilitative principles were then organized in the context of a comprehensive principles-of-learning framework, which includes the four additional principles of potentialtargetchange, and practice.

Keywords: principles of learning, domain-specific theories of learning, learning framework, learning theories, learning theory, learning principles, learning, principles, theory, theories

Read the foundational research for the Principles-of-Learning Framework here.