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There are many variables to consider when making curriculum decisions. A critical one is deciding if the curriculum decision is consistent with what we know about how college students learn. Will the action we propose result in better learning for our students? We are fortunate to be building curriculum at a time when our knowledge about how people learn is growing very quickly. Understanding how people learn and using accepted principles of learning as "decision screens" will help us make more effective curriculum decisions.



Those who hold a constructivist view of learning believe that we build our own knowledge and understanding of the world. We do this by reflecting on and making sense of our experiences, constantly linking new experiences to what we already know so that our "mental models" are constantly changing.

The website, Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning, provides a free workshop on constructivism— from concept to classroom. The classroom examples are all drawn from elementary and secondary schools but can be easily applied to learning in colleges.

Web site where you will find a definition and brief, easily understood, discussion of constructivism.

Brain Friendly Learning

Recent discoveries in the fields of both neuroscience and cognitive science have helped us to understand a great deal about how the brain works to acquire process, store and retrieve information. Building curriculum that works with the brain fosters improved learning.

This is a good site to start your exploration of brain friendly learning. It provides a brief overview and has links to other related sites.

Eric Jensen, a recognized advocate of brain compatible learning, describes ten brain-based learning strategies.


Multiple Intelligences

Howard Gardner is reported to have said, "Don't ask, how smart I am. Ask, how am I smart?" We know now that people learn many different ways. Keeping this in mind as we design learning experiences and build curriculum enriches learning for all.

This site provides an overview of Gardner's Multiple Intelligences, tips and resources for its use.

Tapping into Multiple Intelligences is a free, online workshop from Thirteen Ed. You will learn useful background information, tips and strategies for using multiple intelligences to help students learn.


Adult Learning Principles

Although there is some dispute over whether or not adult learning really is any different than learning at any age, we do know that adults bring with them a wealth of experience that influences new learning. Current adult educators have drawn on many different views of learning to identify helpful principles that support adult learning.

This site provides a good introduction to adult learning with links to other resources.

Another older article with messages that are relevant to today's learners. This article by Ron and Susan Zemke originally appeared in Innovation Abstracts. It details "30 things we know for sure" about adult learners. Included in this list are 14 items specifically linked to curriculum design.

Jay Cross is credited with coining the term "elearning". You can read his ideas on informal learning for adults.


Learning Styles


We know that we all learn differently and that each student will have his/her own preferred way of perceiving and making sense of the world around them. Different learning style inventories address different variables. Knowing some of these variables can help us to design curriculum that we support all learners.

This article provides clear, easily understood description of learning styles, an overview of learning styles and links to other resources. A good starting point.

This site from Western Nevada College was designed to help their students identify and use their "learning style" to be successful with their college studies. This site provides a useful overview of the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory. It also describes an adaptation of this inventory with implications for learning.

Solomon and Felder have created a Learning Style Index that can be taken (without charge) online.

VARK (visual, auditory, read/write, kinesthetic) identifies how we like to take in information.

David Kolb was one of the early developers of a learning style inventory. It was closely linked to his view of experiential learning. Kolb's Learning Style Inventory.

The Prof's Resource site at Algonquin College has some information on learning styles.


Exploring Different Views of Learning


There are many other theories and views of how people learn. If you want to check these out, you might find these sites helpful starting points.

This site provides many an overview of a range of theories and links to many other credible sites.

This site provides an index of learning theories and models.

This paper is more scholarly. It compares four broad orientations to learning.

Oxford Brooks University presents short summaries of a range of learning theories.

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