Pulling Together the Elements to Create a Significant Learning Environment

pull together

As I continue to refine my Innovation Plan, which allows for students to create virtual work sites using 360-degree photography for the Career and Technical Education classroom, I am keenly aware of how important it is to create a significant learning environment. Creating significant learning environments (CSLE) means putting the learner first. The learners’ needs are what dictate the activities and instruction. CSLE also calls for the teacher to relinquish the “sage on the stage” role in favor of the “guide on the side.” This means the instructor becomes a facilitator and mentor in the classroom. CSLE means embracing an approach to learning the provides learners choice, ownership, and voice through authentic learning opportunities (COVA (Harapnuik)). Please read my previous post about Creating Significant Learning Environments here.

Developing this innovation plan also required me to think through my learning philosophy. The three major learning theories, Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism, each have appealing definitions that undoubtedly play a role in how people learn, but after studying each, Constructivism, with its emphasis on the learner’s active involvement of making meaning and knowledge, is what holds the most weight with me. Please check out my post on Learning Philosophy here.

How to carry out instruction is a crucial part of my innovation plan. I explored two different processes for designing instruction: Fink’s guide which utilizes the Three-Column table, and Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design. Both have attractive components in course development, but I appreciated the structure of the learning activities in the Understanding by Design model slightly more. Use the links above to view my posts for each model.

Finally, my Growth Mindset Plan looks at the transformation-inducing work by Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Of all the elements necessary to create a significant learning environment, I find this to be the most important. Learners’ perception of their intelligence being fixed or able to grow is the foundation we all approach learning. If we view intelligence as static, we see little reason to put forth effort because, as the thinking goes, our intelligence is what it is. We avoid challenges and cower to obstacles, and above all else, seek to appear smart. Embracing a growth mindset, on the other hand, accepts the scientific research that through effort and persistence, we can expand our intelligence. We embrace challenges, accept criticism, and look to others’ success as inspiration.

It is with each of these elements that I continue to create a significant learning environment within my educational community, which includes myself, my children, and the CTE teachers and students within my district.


Creating Significant Learning Environments

Learning Philosophy

Three-Column Table

Understanding By Design

Growth Mindset Plan (Part A)

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (expanded second ed.). Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Fink, L. D. (2003). A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Harapnuik, D. COVA. http://www.harapnuik.org/?page_id=6991

Harapnuik, D. (2015, September 29). Why Use an ePortfolio. Retrieved from http://www.harapnuik.org/?page_id=6063

Dweck. C (2016) Mindset The New Psychology of Success Updated Edition Ballantine Books

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