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    7 Principles to Prepare Students for an Uncertain Future


    01 Sep, 2017

    10 : 00

    • This week, Yew Chung International School of Beijing invited parents to campus for an in-depth look at the famed YCIS Beijing Chinese programme. Christine Xu (Chinese Co-Principal) and April Peng (Primary Chinese Coordinator) spent an hour with parents discussing the curriculum and teaching methodologies which are structured around 7 Principles of Learning.

      Through years of research, educational psychologists explored the nature of learning through the perspectives of cognition, emotion, and biology.  The research was then used to form 7 Principles of Learning that would guide the development of 21 century learning environments and best prepare students for the challenges of the uncertain future.

      #1 - Learners at the Centre

      The implications of having a classroom full of students who have “learned how to learn” can be profound.  The role of the teacher changes from simply imparting information to instead leading the learning.  Teachers become engineers – crafting environments that allows students to learn best.

      #2 - The Social Nature of Learning

      Learning environments should recognize the social nature of learning and should encourage cooperative interaction between students.  Recent research in neuroscience also shows the benefits of social interaction in learning, both towards student achievement as well as behavior. Of course, individual research and self-study are also important, but social learning should be emphasized from a young age, while opportunities for autonomous learning can grow as students mature. 

      #3 - Emotions are Integral to Learning 

      Emotions color nearly every aspect of our lives, both as students and as adults.  The learning process is no different, but instead is the result of the fluid interplay between emotions, motivation and cognition – of which emotion is often the most under-emphasized. Yet it’s important for students to have positive beliefs about themselves as learners in general.  When students are inwardly confident, they’re more apt to take risks and take on challenges.  Motivation increases, as does perseverance in the face of hardship. Teachers, parents, and students themselves should always pay attention to their inward confidence and emotions.  Addressing low confidence or emotional distress is often akin to removing a pebble from your shoe – students are then able to run faster and farther than if simply pressured or pushed from behind.

      #4 - Recognizing Individual Differences

      Learning environments should also be acutely sensitive to the variety of the individuals within it.  Students in a given classroom will differ from each other in fundamental ways, including: ability, prior knowledge, interests, motivations, beliefs, and learning styles.  Add to that list their differences in socio-environmental terms, such as cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and you see that it’s essential for teachers and parents to be able to cater to unique individual needs. Learning environments, therefore, need the ability to adapt to individual needs, both in instruction and in physical space.

      #5 - Stretching all Students

      While it’s important to avoid an environment based on fear and excessive pressure, it’s also necessary to demand hard work and challenge students to push themselves beyond what they thought was possible. Learning environments should find a balance between hard work and excessive overload. Additionally, to build upon the social nature of learning, high achieving students can help struggling students.  Lower-achieving students benefit from hearing the content presented in a new and personalized way, while top students also benefit by being pushed to understand the concepts well enough to explain them.  This method stretches all learners involved. 

      #6 - Assessment for Learning

      A learning environment should be very clear about what’s expected from students, why it’s expected, and the importance of the subject matter for students’ future goals and objectives.  Without this being clearly laid out and emphasized, motivation decreases, and students are less able to reconcile individual lesson units with larger knowledge frameworks. Assessment should provide meaningful feedback and be given regularly in order to help shape the direction and practices of future learning.

      #7 - Building Horizontal Connections

      The last key principle of learning is the need to build horizontal connections across all areas of knowledge. Complex knowledge structures are made up and organized through smaller blocks of learning.  And these individual blocks often transfer to other content areas – such as how the study of psychology can inform one’s understanding of economic theory.  There are parallels everywhere between subject disciplines, and seeing these connections is a critical skill in the 21st century. Through these 7 Principles of Learning, YCIS Beijing frames our curriculum and learning support structures.  Students are understood to have individual needs, yet find constant opportunity for cooperative engagement.  They’re provided meaningful assessment, while being pushed to reach heights that they’d thought were unattainable.  And, as they see the interconnectedness between cultures (a benefit of being an international school student), they also grow to appreciate the interconnectedness of knowledge and subject disciplines – leaving them prepared and ready for the whatever awaits them ahead.