Goals and General Description

Linking Insights about How People Learn to Curricular Reform
The 2003 PKAL Assemblies
What Works - What Matters - What Lasts: The Roles and Responsibilities of Leaders in Undergraduate STEM

October 30 - November 1, 2003


How People Learn, a report published in 1999 by a committee established by the National Research Council, has a single focus: bringing research from advances in cognitive science into the work of shaping effective learning environments. It might be that, among all the documents reviewed here, this publication alone could drive decisions of reformers in the next decade in the most productive ways. Although, in the end, it speaks to each of the stakeholder communities, the value of this report is that its starting point is the process of learning, and all discussions, conclusions, and recommendations are derived therefrom.

Most faculty understand what works for student learning primarily by analyzing their own experiences– from when they were students and from the achievements or lack thereof of students in their classrooms and labs. This is the case even as educators from John Dewey on have called for attention to how people learn. This NRC publication builds a 21st century educational philosophy on a foundation of solid research, documenting that there are more effective approaches than diligent drill and practice. In the past 30 years, research has generated new conceptions of learning in five areas:

  1. memory and structure of knowledge

  2. analysis of problem solving and reasoning

  3. early foundations

  4. metacognitive processes and self-regulatory capabilities

  5. cultural experiences and community participation.

If the integration of research and education is one of the goals of 21st century reformers, How People Learn is an essential roadmap to make that happen. It will also be a valuable resource for colleges and universities wrestling to use the tools of technology most creatively in the service of student learning. It shows how decisions made at each stage of shaping the learning environment– including incorporating technologies– will be more felicitous over the long term when they are based on scientific research that has implications for the design of formal institutional environments and is designed to explore the possibility of helping all individuals achieve their full potential.