How might we design learning environments that fully integrate the science of learning and development?


The fields of neuroscience, psychology, and cognitive science have unearthed important insights and established agreed-upon models that help explain how learning happens and inform the design of impactful learning environments. Our Designing for Learning resources aim to share these insights and models in a way that supports whole-school design.

To that end, we’ve brought together research on multiple factors that impact learning—including cognition, motivation, identity, and individual variability—and applied a school design lens that considers not just classroom-based instruction, but also other elements of a learning environment’s design (e.g., adult roles, schedules, community partnerships, etc.). We hope these resources, which currently include a primer summarizing key insights from the research and design cards to help communities act on these insights, complement the exciting and growing body of knowledge related to the science of learning and development in meaningful and actionable ways.

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Designing for Learning Primer

This primer introduces four key factors that impact learning: cognition, motivation, identity, and individual variability. We selected these areas because a wealth of research indicates that each plays a critical role in how learning happens. Using this research, we developed a set of core learning principles that help explain these roles. In addition, we identified various implications for learning environments and specified design decisions that could align with these implications. This primer isn’t meant to be a fully comprehensive review of the literature; we’ve included a variety of additional resources related to specific principles as well as to learning and development in general.

Designing for Learning Cards

These cards and design activities will help you apply the ideas in the Designing for Learning Primer. Each card focuses on a specific learning principle from the primer, providing questions to inspire idea generation and reflection on how we might design school to implement that principle. Though there are many ways to use these cards, we’ve included two examples: the first focuses on brainstorming a new learning environment, the second on analyzing an existing one. We’ve made these cards “do-it-yourself” (cut, fold, and tape to assemble) but please email if you would like to acquire professionally-printed versions.

These resources are just the beginning.

We will continue to explore research on how learning happens with the goal of making this knowledge increasingly accessible and usable for design teams everywhere. Thus, we’ll continue to update the primer and design cards based on new research and on what we learn from using them with our school partners. In addition, over time, we will work to expand the existing knowledge base by (for example) further understanding the many design decisions that might support the research on how learning happens or searching for school designs that embody the principles of how young people learn.