How might we provide the optimal environment for learners to flourish in STEM?

Short read: The headlines

In January 2020, I am leading a professional study tour with a STEM focus, visiting schools, universities and science centres in Scandinavia, Europe and the UK.

Across the world, innovation hubs, maker spaces and STEM centres are developed to inspire young (and old) scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs. 

Where do you find the inspiration to develop the state-of-the-art learning environment?

I will be leading a tour this January to explore best practice in the design and application of STEM. Exploring schools and universities, but also the most exciting science centres in Europe, with behind-the-scenes tours where possible (more is explained in the long read). Concluding with a visit to Bett Show, billed as the world’s biggest technology event is held annually in London.

Curious? Head over to Culture Learning Design [STEM] Tour 2020 to find out more and register your interest.

Longer read:

STEM subjects, science, technology, engineering and maths, are critical knowledge centres as we take advantage of the emerging opportunities, and address global challenges.

This might entail designing a wholistic STEM environment that will inspire curiosity and creative thinking, enable multi–disciplinary exploration, and where learning is hands-on and ‘body-in’ as much as ‘minds-engaged’.

Where learning is not just hands-on, but also body-in and minds-engaged, at Danfoss Universe in Nordborg, Denmark.

During my earliest study tours to Scandinavia (2010 and 2011) we visited Danfoss Universe in Denmark. The founder, Jorgensen Mads Clauson, believed that:

We need a new place to bring passion for science and technology back to our children. Danfoss Universe shall be such a place.

Danfoss Universe  was borne out of a commitment to develop a place to inspire creativity and innovation in young people, successfully combining the ‘wow factor’ of the theme park, with the ‘aha’ of the science centre.

The philosophy of Danfoss Universe was explained to our group as based around the Theory of Interest Development, perhaps drawing on the work of Andreas Krapp (2007):

This process takes the learner on a journey from providing the context for extrinsic inspiration, toward the individual learner developing deep intrinsic motivation, independently pursuing further learning. It reminds me of another young scientist I met in the UK a few years ago, we were visiting his school:

UK Student Corrects NASA Data Error

Miles had his interest triggered through providing the opportunity, and he then maintained a personal interest. To Miles, spreadsheet interrogation is ‘a lot more interesting than it sounds’.

How might your new (or current) STEM Centre or Innovation Hub support the diverse interests and passions of learners?

As I begin making plans for Culture Learning Design [STEM] Tour 2020, Danfoss Universe will be closed for the winter, but there are a number of other science centres on the radar to provide inspiration. Where possible, I am hoping to organise a behind-the-scenes tour of the places we will visit. Hopefully including:

Experimenta in Heilbronn, is Germany’s largest science centre, opened earlier this year. The building’s five pentagonal shaped stories are twisted and stacked. The design provides a place for the four worlds that shape the visitor experience – Metabolism, Head Stuff, World View and Adventure Playground

Science Centre Delft  – Science, design & engineering are the three main themes of the Science Center Delft. A unique gathering place for all research that is done at TU Delft (university). Visitors can experience the research setups of TU Delft researchers and students. (Netherlands)

Read: The Making of a Science Centre (TU Delft)

NEMO Science Museum – I have visited NEMO numerous times, along with the quality of the exhibitions and activities is the high level of engagement from the children and young people. NEMO’s mission is to bring science and technology closer to the public in an interactive and accessible way. (Amsterdam)

Den Bla Planet in Copenhagen is Northern Europe’s largest aquarium on the shores of Oresund. Designed by Danish firm 3XN the architecture is inspired by a vortex. ‘The Blue Planet’ is at the international forefront with world class architecture, with thousands of animals from all over the world and advanced presentation technologies.

In addition to this, I am on the lookout for schools and universities with exemplary STEM facilities and programs, particularly in the UK. The Northern Hemisphere is presently on summer vacation, so these will be confirmed in a couple of months.

Each year at the end of January, Bett Show, billed as the world’s biggest technology event is held in London. It is the industry event for the ed tech sector. Along with exhibitors, there are headline speakers, focusing on the future of education. The tour will conclude in London with BETT.

Curious? Head over to Culture Learning Design [STEM] Tour 2020 page to find out more and register your interest.

Is design thinking a nice idea for the creatives-types or a strategy for transformation? 3 ways leaders create the context for transformation by design

Leading change today requires a set of skills that is responsive to the collaborative and empathic culture that many organisations now value. In times past, leadership was transactional, aimed at efficiencies and relationships, negotiated within a hierarchical structure.

Sustaining a culture that is built on empathy and collaboration, requires an approach that values people and grows the capacity to embrace solutions beyond what is already known.  For schools it means that we shift the focus from a content delivery priority, to creating the context for optimising engagement – an ‘each learner’ culture.

A sustained commitment to transformation means that design moves from the realm a few keen creative-types, to becoming a culture – ‘we transform by design’. This can be achieved by becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable, embracing the unknown, enabling divergent thinking and celebrating failure as an option. 

As with any change, maintaining momentum for the long haul starts with leaders providing the necessary guidance and support and walking the talk. It can often be challenging for leaders to relinquish control and refrain from making arbitrary decisions by default, but this is what needs to happen. 

In “The Right Way to Lead Design Thinking” (HBR 2019) Bason and Austin outline three ways that leaders can create the context for transformation by design:

  • Leveraging empathy by helping teams to take a positive path:
    • Letting go of preconceptions and long-held beliefs
    • Reframing problems into positive, such as ‘How might we…so that…’ statements
    • Getting closer to the user
  • Encouraging divergent thinking and navigating ambiguity.
    When generating ideas, Bason and Austin suggest coming up with seven ways. The first three come easily, while the next four bring potential new solutions beyond the easy answers
  • Rehearsing new futures – also known as prototyping and testing, making, drawing doing, not just talking about it.

“Such tangible artefacts generate conversations that tend to be much more detailed, concrete and useful than hypothetical discussions are”

I witnessed this first hand recently. When I facilitate workshops, using design thinking it’s practical, hands on and playful. This sometimes messes with particular participants’ expectations of professional development (I can usually spot them, in the opening sessions). 

Recently, as the days progressed, I witnessed one such person open up and go with the flow. On the final day, as we were building and making prototypes, it was encouraging to overhear the language and concepts being applied to the prototyped designs. 

Each of the ideas can feel like slowing down the process, often a challenge for the leader. But it needs to, yielding more creative and unexpected ideas.


Collaboration – where do you begin? Six steps for your design team to get collaborative

A couple of days ago I concluded the three day Design for the Long Haul workshop with the team of teachers from an elementary school in Toronto. The ideas around learning design-thinking, collaboration and empathy mapping were relatively new to most of them. But they were up for the challenge.

As a methodology, design-thinking is inclusive, it challenges long-held assumptions and creates new possibilities. To be effective for the long haul the process needs to be sustainable and embedded in the culture.

In this workshop, each stage, each day, builds on the last. A lot of time is spent on core practices, modelling a culture of empathy and collaboration, these are the foundations. In terms of empathy, the ‘user’, the subject of the design is the focus. For me, the essence of learning design is to create an ‘each-learner’ culture, especially the hard-to-reach, asking

How might this student experience success?

How might this student feel they belong?

Collaboration is the vehicle that drives the process of design and it needs to be fit-for-purpose. A family of four can’t easily get around in a sports coupe, or a city transportation system can’t rely on whim of the drivers to get people to work on time. The vehicle needs the right specifications, as well as systems and processes that make it all work.

They were still unable to truly achieve the desired outcome because they confused pleasant, cooperative behaviour with collaboration.

HBR Blog, April 2015

This remains one of my favourite quotes. When we are truly collaborative there is curiosity, disagreement, uncertainty and humility. Letting go of our own ideas, being open to something new and accepting the decision of the team is fundamental to success.

Merely bringing people together around a whiteboard, a pile of post-it notes, and a problem to be solved isn’t necessarily collaboration, either. In her recent post on Medium, Jaya Ramchandani outlines eight practices for successful collaboration, each deserving further elaboration (Read the article here, it also includes a helpful planning tool)

The first on the list is “Start with mutual trust and respect”. Each person on the design team puts aside agendas, believes in the process and has faith the outcome. Meirink et al researched teacher learning and collaboration, finding that that effective collaboration, in a trust-based context, encouraged the teachers in the research to let go of existing beliefs and try something new. This is a huge step. Reaching that level of trust takes time, ultimately leading to interdependency amongst design team members.

From Meirink and colleague’s research, I adapted these levels of collaboration.

I have been thinking about all this as I reflect on the workshop this week. Whether the context is empathic design of learning, rather than content delivery; an irritant problem that won’t go away; or a strategy for professional growth, when collaboration is relatively new, how do you begin?

  1. Create the ‘Design Team’ – a committed group of people who genuinely want to explore a new way forward
  2. Put aside the way you’ve typically worked, and ask those who usually have all the answers to play along
  3. Seek agreement from each person to trust the process (and each other)
  4. Identify the common problem and reframe it into a question:
    ‘How might we…so that…?’
  5. Agree on a strategy or tool to facilitate the process (open dialogue will just lead you down the same old path)
  6. Stick with the process – prototype and test solutions (until the design team agree on the way ahead)



Ashkenas, R (2015), There’s a difference between cooperation and collaboration HBR (Blog), April 20, 2015

Meirink, Imants, Meijer & Verloop (2010) “Teacher learning and collaboration in innovative teams”, Cambridge Journal of Education, 40:2, 161-181

Ramchandani, J. (2019) “Successful collaboration starts with eight simple practices

A beginner’s canvas for making collaborations work”
Retrieved from:

What could be made possible if schools were driven by empathy?

What could be made possible if schools were driven by empathy?

  • Leadership: A consultative culture prevails
  • Teachers: Focus on learning design not content delivery
  • Students: Feel like they belong and their voice is valued, become co-designers

Imagine the scene, I’ve found the perfect sofa. Colour and style matches with my dream for the space. I’ve sat on it, it’s comfy, colour and style are appealing, so I say ‘yes’ and arrange delivery, When the sofa arrives, it doesn’t fit. What happened? Perhaps, before committing to the purchase, I needed to assess the room capacity against the sofa’s specifications.

Design thinking, also known as ‘human-centred design’, puts people first,

For design thinkers, behaviours are never right or wrong, but they are always meaningful.

(Tim Brown, Change by design p.39).

Brown describes empathy as standing in the shoes of others, gaining deep understanding from behaviours and feelings, and taking notice of people in their natural habitat. He suggests that the progression from insight and observations to empathy means that the subject of the design might then become a co-designer, resulting in an enhanced level of collaboration.

Even if we are very experienced, maybe we’ve designed schools before, we know kids and teachers, so the idea of spending a considerable amount of time on empathy mapping feels like it’s slowing progress on the project, and ultimately the cost to reach the solution. Without it, the solution may not be fit-for-purpose.

When we show empathy, we deeply know another’s feelings, we feel what they feel and then respond compassionately to their situation. To sympathise is to care, but to empathise is to genuinely feel what others feel. When we deeply understand someone else’s experience

we utilise the same brain wiring that is active during our own experience

(Goleman, p.59)

What happens when we shift the language from…

students will to each student will ?

(Acknowledging Greg Miller for this provocation)

I know what you’re thinking, an individual learning plan for every student in the school? This would be impossible. We can learn from the experiences of other sectors. Design thinking has transformed many government services. While not isolating the needs of all customers, personas are developed to represent key demographics, so services become more inclusive. In one project, this enabled the design team to

develop deep empathy for people they are designing for, to question [their own] assumptions, and to inspire new solutions

Service Design for Public Policy

How might we gain deep empathic insights, using design thinking:

  • Re-inventing the school arrival experience?
  • Teachers transforming thinking and practices in new learning environments?
  • Learning design for inquiry-based approaches?
  • Re-imagining the timetable?
  • Establishing new systems to address embedded routines?
  • Creating the desired culture?

Tools include:

Journey map – trace the subject’s journey on a matrix that progresse through time (horizontal) and response at key interaction points (vertical)

Expectation map – What does the subject see, hear, say, do, think and feel? What might they hear from other voices?

Scenarios – Create a scenario, from information gathered to storyboard their experience. This helps to align the design team around a clear vision

Pain Point Mapping – What does a student experience across a day. Map each instance on the severity and probability/frequency

Simple ethnography – As a design team, observe and record interactions and activities to identify issues and opportunities.


The Future of Learning: If you only work on TWO SKILLS…

Yesterday I had two conversations that really made me think. First of all, Adrian, a consultant working in the tech sector who’s ahead of the game with technology for learning and work. I was keen to know what’s next in tech, we spoke about the future trends in digital innovation. When I asked about what we need to teach our kids and enhance their capacity, his immediate answer was ‘collaboration’.

Collaboration has been a buzz-word for so long, but I do wonder if we actually get it? Collaboration is purposeful, robust and honest, within a context of trust, and, as Adrian reiterated, it can be just as successfully achieved in a virtual environment, all the players no longer need to be in the same physical proximity.

The next conversation was with Derek another colleague in the education space. We were discussing a school he had visited recently, immersed in inquiry learning, with a strong design-thinking approach to pedagogy from the early years, right through. What was clear from the conversation, was that the students spent significant time developing empathy, deeply considering, who are we designing for?

Collaboration and empathy, imagine what could be achieved if these became the drivers of skill development.  Taking it a level further, what if empathy and collaboration were underpinned by humility and curiosity?

(c) Anne Knock

The 20th century industry grew through mass marketing, mass communication and mass production. Large commercial ‘boulders’ provided what we needed for commodities, media and services, and we dutifully complied. In recent years, we’ve seen a seismic shift toward a culture of pebbles – opening opportunities for all, providing voice, agency, innovation and influence of the people.

In most industries, the customer experience culture is drilling down to identify the particular needs/desires of the individual user, shifting from mass production to the artisan, from one-size-fits-all to bespoke. This is the essence of empathy. Yet, in education we still seem to be driven by the big data of national assessment and benchmarking standards, when we need to be more curious about small data at the human level.

In the ‘boulder’ culture, we trusted the person paid the most, because they apparently knew best. But now, we are tapping-into the wisdom of the people, listening to the ‘pebbles’. This involves genuinely seeking the best solution, drawing on the wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise of the collective. This is collaboration.

Empathy and collaboration are learnt and practised skills in a context of authentic opportunities for application. Our students and team-members need to grow their capacity, and teachers and team leaders also need to acquire, model and apply these skills. Then empathy and collaboration become a culture, from the top, all the way through.

It is easy to allow one or two people to make executive decisions and then we (grudgingly?) comply. It is much harder and can be exhausting to tackle a problem through a collaborative and often iterative process.

But it is rewarding and durable to achieve success as a team.

It is easy to assume I  know best and can meet need through applying a blanket solution. It is time-consuming and can be personally challenging to deep dive into an empathy mapping exercise.

But when that one outlier or that hard to engage student achieves a sense of success, there is no feeling like it.

Where would you rather be?


Four Important Ideas: Learning Environment as the ‘Silent’ Contributor Student Wellbeing

“The physical space influences behaviour and ultimate wellbeing of every member of the community”

Dr Helen Street (2018)

Student wellbeing is not well-served as an extra program, an add-on to the crowded curriculum, as Dr Street argues in her book, Contextual Wellbeing: Creating positive schools from the inside out, it needs to be part of the DNA of the school, clearly evident in the approaches to learning, the policies and practices and the foundational culture. As a ‘silent’ contributor to wellbeing, the physical environment cannot be overlooked in this equation.

“Buildings exist as reflections of the values, attitudes and behaviours of their designers, owners and occupiers” (p.122).

Student wellbeing can be supported by the environment in four ways:

1. Power of Outside

As I consult with schools in masterplanning and the pre-design in-house research, I often talk to the school community, asking ‘What would enhance learning and the overall culture?’ More frequently they say ‘we want more green’, a ‘connection to the outside’ and ‘bring the outside in’.

Institutional school buildings of the past have prioritised corridors, moving the inmates, I mean students, from one cell, sorry, classroom to the next. School buildings were once only considered as the container for teaching, set up to maximise the impartation of knowledge. Now, we are seeking to design the optimal environment for learning.

In many cities, with increasing urbanisation families live in medium and high density housing, the idea of ‘outside’ is critical. As students spend a considerable part of their day at school, we can provide this link to the natural environment, to plants and making a connection to the outdoors.

2. Comfort and Design

There are many inspirational images of shared and open learning environments, seeking to inspire a sense of openness, showing multiple zones for a range of interactions. However, with insufficient attention to acoustics and other sensory elements, Dr Street notes that,

“Many teachers ended up ‘surviving their open plan environment rather that using them well and the potential benefits of teaching in flexible and collaborative learning spaces were often overshadowed by high noise levels and insufficient cooperation between staff and students.” (p.124)

3. Ownership

Enabling ownership of the design by the school community can be transformational when creating a place for learning. I regularly hear stories of how the key users of the learning environment, the students and teachers, had not been consulted. This usually doesn’t end well.

In my talk on this topic, I present a to don’t list, as opposed to a to do list, when embarking on a journey of school transformation. This includes no ‘ta-da’ moments, the temptation to have a great reveal to the community when the building is completed. New building projects are directly related to change in practice, habits and attitudes. This can be scary for many. As the project nears completion, anxiety rates can increase.

“The most effective physical environments are created when the whole school community is consulted and involved in the process of change and development, from classroom decor to the shared spaces.” (p.129)

4. Voices from the Walls

I’ve written previously about the idea of ‘small data’. Walk around any school or workplace, and small data abounds. This can be the information displayed on the notice boards, and shape everyday cultural clues that lead to broader trends. I’ve become a ‘small data detective’ when I’m visiting a school and if I see a sign or message on a wall, I often ask the host ‘why?’. My perception of the message as an independent observer, is often different from the original intention.

Dr Street asks,

“What messages are being given out by the reception? The hallways? The canteen? The classrooms?” (p.131).

She explains that these messages reflect the culture of the school,

“Do they suggest that education is a race you might win or lose?” (p.131).


“Classrooms are just too complicated for research to ever tell teachers what to do”

This is the provocative statement was made by Dylan Wiliams (DW) as he addressed an awards ceremony for teachers in Glasgow recently. (Available

He suggests that teaching is at best a ‘partial profession’, it’s an unusual job, compared to other professions. As a comparison, medications prescribed by doctors are ‘prescriptive’ as the name suggests. Clinical research and trials can inform widespread used of a particular medication given certain conditions. A simplified explanation, I know, but the complexity of teaching is much less formulaic, each context is as unique as each learner in the class.

What is a professional? describes a professional as a “Person formally certified by a professional body of belonging to a specific profession by virtue of having completed a required course of studies and/or practice. And whose competence can usually be measured against an established set of standards

Most of that is straight forward – formally certified, completed a required course of study – but measuring competence “against an established set of standards”, that is less straightforward. Perhaps ‘partial profession’ is actually more accurate. This is because, “the problems teachers need to solve are just much harder” (DW) He explains that the “kind of knowledge that expert teachers have is more like the knowledge of how to ride a bike” (DW).

Sometimes I read an article and the best way for me to grasp the ideas is to draw them. These ideas and the others raised in the transcript have shaped this visualisation:

He also suggests that the idea of applying growth mindsets and fixed mindsets to teacher transformation, and this could be worth further exploration, as Dylan Wiliams says, “A belief that you can get better as a teacher is the key to staying positive in the job”. And that helps everyone, especially the learners.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this idea of teaching as a ‘partial profession’. Or, perhaps you can suggest an article, idea or talk that could be visualised in this way.


Vale Jens Guldbaek: A personal reflection of an education-revolutionary

Over the past eight years I have been privileged to visit Copenhagen regularly, spending time with Jens Guldbaek, his wife Birte Broens and their daughter Mie Guldbaek Broens. They have become dear friends, and I write this in tribute to Jens.

It was with great sadness that we learnt of the recent death of Danish school design visionary and friend to many, Jens Guldbaek. Jens was known across the world as a passionate advocate of school design and pedagogy. His joy, curiosity and generosity of spirit touched many.

Jens & Mie from

In 2002, Hellerup, the school without walls opened its doors. Jens was the creative mind behind the vision for re-imagining school and those now-famous stairs.

Hellerup School

At the time, Jens was the advisor to the local authority, with the responsibility of designing a school to meet future learning needs of today’s generation. The spaces enabled multiple learning modes, for students working alone, in small groups, a class together, and large gatherings. The design was ahead of its time, with flexible spaces, responsive to the needs of students.

From Connecting modern pedagogies with the physical learning environments
A space for classes (young and old!) at Hellerup School
The Whale… there’s an interesting story behind this.

I was first introduced to Jens, Birte and Mie when they came to Australia in February 2011. I was working at Northern Beaches Christian School in Sydney at the time, and Jens was excited by the innovative learning spaces and pedagogy. They also visited other schools, including Dandenong High School and found some kindred spirits in Australia.

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age reported on his visit in an article Better designs that lead to better learning. Jens despaired that many schools had yet to appreciate the urgency of disrupting the current model of school, both the physical environment and teaching and learning practices:

“Adding smart boards and other teaching aides is not sufficient to engage today’s students,” he says. “Schools are still ignoring the fact that if you have one teacher in a class, no one really pays attention. We now know that teaching and learning in teams works best. That means we have to get out of the classroom and open the school up.”

Sydney Morning Herald, Feb 28, 2011

Jens will be remembered as an educational revolutionary of the 21st century, seeking to radically redesign schools for the future, in so doing he gained global recognition and respect. He was a passionate advocate for learners – the kids – and a determined activist for change. He challenged the status quo in education. This legacy remains as Mie continues the work, through consultancy

Jens was also a dedicated and loving husband, father, grandfather. He was a wonderful friend. We miss him. But we will keep the fire burning.


Find out more about Jens and his passion for kids, learning and school design:

Video interview with Jens

Connecting modern pedagogies with the physical learning environments

Then and now: Evolving pedagogy and place

Learning Landscapes, Why?

Destination Christchurch NZ: An immersive professional learning experience.

Disruption has characterised this city. In February 2011, the land was disrupted by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake, causing significant loss of life and severe damage. Then in March 2019, there was ‘human’ disruption, with significant loss of life once again. I see a great sense of community and optimism in the people of Christchurch, where both resilience and fragility co-exist. Transformation that has been fast-tracked out of necessity.

Images of Christchurch 2015

Since 2011, the city rebuild has been underway. Since then, I’ve visited three times, noting the progress as buttressed buildings are replaced or renovated. The downtown city is becoming bright and vibrant once again, and the bumpy roads smoothed out.

Christchurch is not being fixed up to restore ‘business as usual’, it is being transformed, creating a ‘new normal’, especially in education. Many schools were damaged and families relocated. Schools needed to provide a place for students, not just for their learning, but to strengthen a disrupted community. Immediately after the earthquakes schools were closed, they shared sites, splitting their day in two with other schools damaged in the earthquake. Schools were merged and new schools were birthed. For some families, the generational tradition of attending the same school was broken. As a grander educational plan was worked out, the Ministry of Education grasped the opportunity to transform school and learning.

A few months ago, I started to think about a NZ study tour. I started talking with Cheryl Doig, a former Christchurch school principal and local mover and shaker , leadership futurist Think Beyond. With Cheryl’s encouragement and insight I realised that we have much to learn from this city and Destination Christchurch emerged – a week long professional learning deep-dive to understand the transformation of learning and culture here in Christchurch. We started to put legs to the idea, so I set off this week to find out more.

Prior to the earthquake, many of us had heard about the city-based Discovery 1 and Unlimited schools with their unique student-centred character. For the past eight years the students had been in a temporary location, that is, until this week. On 6 May 2019, the two schools as one returned to the city, to their purpose-built space. On 8 May, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the new home of Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery School.

Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery School

At Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery school, every student develops an individual education plan. They do not have to follow the regular class route to obtain qualifications or aspirations, but map out their own learning pathway.

As we plan Destination Christchurch, Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery School is one that we hope to visit. Haeata Community Campus is another school that inspires innovation and challenge thinking, as they push boundaries and traditional thinking about schooling.

Haeata Community Campus

The NZ Ministry of Education utilised the disruptive opportunity to re-imagine school for the future. As I walked around with the principal at each school, I heard first hand experiences of growing vision, student ownership, shared teaching models and inclusive leadership, seriously messing with that known and trusted institution that is ‘school’.

As many schools in Australia grapple with change, which might include transforming practice, creating optimal learning environments and supporting wellbeing across the community, we have much to learn from the Christchurch experience, as in one place it presents of microcosm of change.

Rolleston School

I do hope that you might consider joining us for this immersive professional learning experience – Monday 5 – Friday 9 August. 2019. Head over to the Destination Christchurch page to find out more and register.


Real world application: A deep learning game changer

“Failure to connect course content to the real world has repeatedly been shown to contribute to students leaving the sciences”
(Prince & Felder, 2007)

In this article “The Many Faces of Inductive Teaching and Learning”, Prince and Felder examine the effectiveness of different inductive teaching methods. It is focused on college (university) level science teaching, but provides helpful insight into inductive teaching approaches for school education.

The difference between deductive and inductive teaching and learning can be simply explained by ‘who’s in charge’:

  • Inductive – teacher presents the content knowledge
  • Deductive – learners identify what they need to know

The umbrella category ‘inquiry based learning’, presents the model of a big challenge, where the solution, outcome or even the information required, is not necessarily known by the learner ahead of time. Five approaches are reviewed, the first three have particular relevance:

  • Discovery-based learning – teacher provides little feedback or direction as students are required to work out the solution in their own.
  • Problem-based learning – students are usually working in teams, define the problem and determine what they need to know. The teacher provides guidance.
  • Project-based learning – the output is a ‘product’. Students apply previously acquired knowledge.

The remaining two relate more to the college/university context:

  • Case-based teaching – study of historical and hypothetical cases, where students are challenged to explore existing preconceptions to accommodate the realities of the case.
  • Just-in-time learning – students undertake electronic pre-test so the teacher is able to adjust the content to address misconceptions revealed in student responses.


Prince & Felder (2007), Many Faces of Inductive Teaching and Learning
Journal of College Science Teaching