Principles of Learning

The Principles of Learning are a set of characteristics research has found in successful classrooms. These theory- and research-based statements are designed to help educators analyze and improve teaching and learning for all students. These principles are the foundation of the IFL’s work.

Organizing for Effort

An effort-based school prioritizes the idea that sustained and directed effort can yield high achievement for all students. Rigorous minimum standards are set, and assessments are geared to the standards. All students are taught a rigorous curriculum, and they receive as much time and expert instruction as they need to meet or exceed expectations.

Accountable Talk

Accountable Talk practices ask students to respond to and further develop what others have said. They put forth and demand knowledge that is accurate and relevant to the issue under discussion. Accountable Talk practices require that students use appropriate evidence and follow established norms of good reasoning.

Clear Expectations

If we expect all students to achieve at high levels, then we must define what we expect students to learn and do. With clear and visible learning targets, students can participate in evaluating and setting goals for their own work and effort.

Learning as Apprenticeship

Apprenticeship allows learners to acquire complex interdisciplinary knowledge, practical abilities, and appropriate forms of social behavior. School environments can be organized so that complex thinking is modeled and analyzed, and mentoring and coaching help students undertake extended projects and develop presentations of finished work.

Socializing Intelligence

Intelligent habits of mind are a set of problem-solving and reasoning capabilities learned through daily expectations placed on the learner. By calling on students to use the skills of intelligent thinking to meet high expectations —and by holding them responsible for doing so—educators can “teach” intelligence.

Fair and Credible Evaluations

If we expect students to put forth sustained effort then we must use assessments that they find fair, and that parents, community members, and employers find credible. Fair evaluations are ones that students can prepare for; therefore, tasks and classroom assessments must be aligned to curriculum and standards. Assessments that meet these criteria provide parents, colleges, and employers with credible evaluations.

Academic Rigor in a Thinking Curriculum

Learning and thinking are intimately joined. In an effort-based school curriculum is organized around major skills that students are expected to know deeply, and teaching must engage students in active thinking about these concepts. In every subject, at every grade level, instruction and learning must include commitment to a high thinking demand, and active use of skills.

Self-Management of Learning

If students are going to be responsible for the quality of their thinking and learning, then they must develop and regularly use an array of self-monitoring and self-management strategies. These metacognitive skills include noticing when one doesn’t understand something and taking steps to remedy the situation, as well as formulating questions and inquiries that let one explore deep levels of meaning.

Recognition of Accomplishment

If we expect students to put forth and sustain high levels of effort, then we must motivate them by recognizing their accomplishments regularly. Clear recognition of authentic accomplishment is a hallmark of an effort-based school. This recognition can take the form of celebrations of work that meets standards or intermediate progress benchmarks en route to the standards.