A learning concept is an overarching idea or principle that explains how learners acquire knowledge or skills.
It serves as a foundation for educators and learners to understand, design, and engage in educational experiences more effectively.
Historically, learning concepts were focused on rote learning, memorization, and repetition. But since the rise of cognitive psychology and social learning theories, things have changed.
Educators are increasingly using learning concepts that embrace trial-and-error, talking things through, and experimentation.
Some examples are provided below.
1. Active Learning
Active Learning is an instruction method in which students engage with the material directly, whether through problem-solving, discussion, review, or case studies. It eclipses passive learning strategies by directly involving the student in their educational process.
2. Blended Learning
Blended Learning leverages both traditional face-to-face classroom methods and digital mediums to provide a comprehensive learning experience. This approach allows the integration of online resources and enhanced flexibility for learners, while maintaining the personal touch of physical classroom interaction.
Constructivism is a theory that asserts learners constuct knowledge on their own, building upon existing understandings to gain new knowledge. It emphasizes the active role of the learner in shaping their understanding rather than passively receiving information.
4. Cooperative Learning
Cooperative Learning is a technique where students work together in small groups on a common task. The group activities are designed so that students rely on each other to achieve the goal, fostering teamwork, leadership, and interpersonal skills alongside academic knowledge.
5. Critical Thinking
Critical Thinking refers to the learner’s ability to analyze, interpret, and evaluate information to make well-founded judgments and decisions. Involving careful reasoning and logic, it requires learners to go beyond mere acquisition of facts and embrace deeper, more thoughtful analysis.
6. Deep Learning
Deep Learning, in an educational context (not to be confused with the AI computing concept), refers to a student’s ability to understand a subject matter at a profound level that allows for complex application of concepts. It goes beyond rote memorization of facts, encouraging comprehension, application, and synthesis of new knowledge.
7. Discovery Learning
Discovery Learning involves students learning through exploration and problem-solving, leading to a deeper understanding of the subject matter. This technique stimulates curiosity, encourages intellectual investment, and hinges on self-motivated exploration of topics.
8. Distributed Practice
Distributed Practice is a learning strategy where studying is spread out over time, rather than being concentrated in long, intensive sessions. This spacing effect tends to produce better long-term retention of material, making it an effective method for lasting learning.
9. Experiential Learning
Experiential Learning is a method where learners gain knowledge and skills through direct experience, usually outside of the traditional academic setting. This could involve internships, study abroad programs, or field work, providing learners with practical, real-world engagement with the subject matter.
10. Flipped Classroom
The Flipped Classroom strategy entails providing learners with instructional content– typically digital materials or online videos– to study outside of class, while class time is devoted to discussion, exercises, and projects that enhance understanding. This format allows for a more personalized learning experience, catering to a student’s unique pace and needs.
11. Formative Assessment
Formative Assessment is an instructional tool used for continuous feedback and guidance during the learning process. Unlike summative assessments which evaluate learning at its conclusion, formative assessments monitor student learning, identifying areas of weakness and strength to guide ongoing instruction.
Gamification is the incorporation of game-like elements into non-game contexts, like learning, to increase engagement and motivation. This approach can make learning experiences more enjoyable and interactive, increasing learners’ willingness to participate and their retention of information.
Andragogy refers to the methods and principles used in adult education, recognizing adults’ independent self-concept, life experiences, readiness to learn, practicality, internal motivation, and problem-solving orientation. It emphasizes the value of the learner’s experience, and encourages learners to become active participants in their education.
Heutagogy, or self-determined learning, involves learners deciding what and how to learn, extending beyond problem-solving to include capacity building for learners. It prioritizes autonomy and capability development, encouraging learners to determine not only the learning path but also the learning methods and resources.
15. Inquiry-based Learning
Inquiry-based Learning promotes curiosity by allowing learners to explore and investigate questions, problems or scenarios themselves. It fosters critical thinking and encourages learners to become actively involved in the learning process, rather than remaining passive recipients of information.
16. Just-in-time Learning
Just-in-time Learning is an approach that provides specific information exactly when a learner needs it. Focused primarily on applicability and timeliness, it enables learners to immediately apply the knowledge they gain, enhancing the learning effect.
17. Kinesthetic Learning
Kinesthetic Learning is a learning style that requires physical activities to understand new information. By participating in hands-on experiences, learners can better remember and understand the concepts they’re being taught.
18. Lifelong Learning
Lifelong Learning refers to the continuous, self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. It extends beyond traditional schooling to encompass learning opportunities in various forms and at multiple stages of life.
19. Mastery Learning
Mastery Learning is a strategy wherein students must achieve a level of mastery in prerequisite knowledge before moving forward to learn subsequent information. The approach focuses on the premise that students will acquire a deeper understanding of the subject matter through a structured system that measures and achieves learning outcomes.
Metacognition involves awareness and understanding of one’s cognitive processes. The concept focuses on “thinking about thinking”, helping learners to actively control the learning process and improve comprehension and problem-solving abilities.
Microlearning involves learning through bite-sized lessons, typically ranging from a few seconds to 15 minutes. The intention is to minimize cognitive overload and integrate the learning process seamlessly into the learner’s daily workflow, thus enhancing retention and understanding.
22. Mind Mapping
Mind Mapping is a learning tool that allows learners to visually organize information, typically around a central concept. By illustrating and linking key concepts, mind mapping can facilitate better understanding and recall of complex ideas.
23. Mobile Learning
Mobile Learning leverages portable technology to facilitate learning anytime and anywhere. Using devices such as smartphones or tablets, students can access learning resources, participate in interactive assignments, or collaborate with peers remotely.
Memorization is a learning technique that involves repeating information until it is committed to memory. While often viewed as less effective than understanding concepts, it remains an essential part of learning, especially for the acquisition of factual content or mastering foundational skills.
25. Multimodal Learning
Multimodal Learning incorporates various methods of learning, such as visual aids, auditory stimuli, and hands-on experiences, to reinforce the same information. It engages different senses and learning styles, catering to diverse learners and enhancing overall comprehension.
26. Peer Teaching
Peer Teaching involves one student teaching or tutoring another, often involving cooperation or team work. This approach not only reinforces the knowledge of the teaching peer, but can also make learning more relatable and digestible for the learning student.
See Also: Peer Learning
27. Problem-based Learning
Problem-based Learning is a student-centered pedagogy in which learners work to solve complex and authentic problems. It encourages deep understanding of the subject matter, develops higher-order thinking skills, and promotes self-directed learning.
28. Project-based Learning
Project-based Learning uses real-world scenarios, challenges, or problems as the basis for a curriculum. Students engage deeply with content by applying it in a practical way, fostering both knowledge retention and the development of useful skills such as critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.
29. Reflective Practice
Reflective Practice is a process of examining one’s own learning or work performance to discover how to improve. This involves thinking about and critically analyzing one’s actions with the goal of improving one’s professional and personal practices.
See Also: Reflective Teaching
30. Rote Learning
Rote Learning involves memorizing information based on repetition. Although sometimes criticized for lack of depth, it can be effective for foundational learning needs, such as multiplication tables or spelling.
Scaffolding is an instructional method that provides step-by-step guidance to students as they tackle new concepts. As learners’ knowledge and skills increase, the scaffolding is gradually removed, fostering independence and mastery over the task or concept.
32. Self-directed Learning
Self-directed Learning encourages learners to take charge of their own education, determining what they learn, how they learn, and when they learn. This method supports individual learning styles, fosters independence, and cultivates lifelong learning skills.
33. Service Learning
Service Learning integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection, enriching learning experiences and strengthening communities. It emphasizes both serving the community and learning from the service experience.
34. Situated Learning
Situated Learning is based on the principle that learning effectively takes place in the context in which it is applied. It suggests that knowledge is deeply embedded in the specific context and situation in which it is learned and used.
35. Social Learning
Social Learning suggests that we learn from observing others, absorbing information and behaviors through social interaction. This theory posits that learning is a cognitive process that takes place in the social context and can occur purely through observation or direct instruction.
36. Spiral Curriculum
Spiral Curriculum is an educational approach by Jerome Bruner in which students revisit the same topics, themes or skills throughout their school years. Each encounter is intended to be more complex than the previous, promoting deeper understanding and mastery over time.
37. Student-centered Learning
Student-centered Learning places students at the center of the learning process, encouraging active participation and giving them control over the pace, style, and direction of learning. This personalized method promotes self-motivation, engagement, and autonomy in learners.
38. Summative Assessment
Summative Assessment is used to evaluate what a student has learned at the culmination of a specific instructional period. Akin to a final review or a post-test, these assessments provide an overall view of student understanding and information retention.
39. Synaptic Learning
Synaptic Learning is an approach based on the brain’s natural learning processes, particularly the strengthening of synaptic connections responsible for memory and learning. The aim is to maximize the mind’s ability to learn, recall, and apply information.
40. Tactile Learning
Tactile Learning, also known as tactile-kinesthetic learning, involves physical action to learn new information, often through touch and movement. This mode is beneficial for learners who perform better when they can manipulate or do something physically to internalize a concept.
41. Team-based Learning
Team-based Learning is a strategy that employs multiple small teams in a single classroom, initially working independently, then collaborating on complex tasks. This method promotes the development of higher-level cognitive skills and teamwork capabilities.
42. Thematic Learning
Thematic Learning revolves around selecting a particular theme and teaching a variety of skills and subjects all centered around that theme. By integrating multiple disciplines, it provides a more wholistic educational experience and enables understanding of the interconnectedness of subjects.
43. Transfer of Learning
Transfer of Learning references the application of skills, knowledge, or attitudes learned in one context to another context. It is crucial in understanding the interplay between subjects and the practical application of theoretical knowledge.
44. Universal Design for Learning
Universal Design for Learning is a teaching framework that aims to offer flexible learning environments to accommodate different learning styles and needs. By presenting information in a variety of ways, it facilitates varied means of action, expression, and engagement, ensuring effective learning for all individuals.
45. Visual Learning
Visual Learning, as the name suggests, depends on the use of visual aids such as charts, maps, and diagrams to grasp and retain new information. It caters to learners who absorb and recall information best when they have visual stimuli to associate with the information.
46. Learning Styles
Learning Styles theory posits that people have unique ways of accumulating and processing information, and suggests that teaching should be tailored to cater to the specific learning style of each student. These styles may be auditory (listening), visual (seeing), or kinesthetic (touching or doing), among others.
47. Zone of Proximal Development
The Zone of Proximal Development, a term coined by psychologist Lev Vygotsky, refers to the difference between what a learner can do without help and what they can achieve with guidance. It serves as a means to identify the potential abilities and the future development of the learner.
48. Authentic Learning
Authentic Learning involves real-world tasks and projects that enable learners to connect school experiences to the work world and community. It uplifts the relevancy of the curriculum to learners’ lives, promoting engagement and building practical skills alongside theoretical knowledge.
Chunking is a technique used to make complex information more understandable and manageable, by breaking it down into smaller bits or “chunks.” This method makes learning more efficient by reducing cognitive load, allowing better absorption and retention of information.
50. Differentiated Instruction
Differentiated Instruction is a teaching strategy that adjusts the content, process, and product of learning according to a student’s individual needs. By acknowledging that students learn in various ways, this method ensures that learning is effective for students of different abilities, interests, and learning preferences.
Knowledge about a diverse range of learning concepts helps you to be able to tailor your teaching to the learners in front of you, optimizing the learning scenario. If you find that one strategy isn’t working, pivot to a new learning concept that might help you overcome your plateau and improve your teaching and learning.
Most of these learning concept examples have learning theories underpinning them. I recommend using the search bar on this website to search for each concept (or use the hyperlinks I’ve provided in this article) to delve deeper into each concept and its theoretical connections.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]