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12 Principles Of Modern Learning

by TeachThought Staff

What are the principles of modern learning?

Well, that depends on how you define ‘learning’ and what you’d consider ‘modern.’ Richard Olsen  put together this useful visual way, way back in 2013–a chart that lays out three categories of a modern approach to learning–Modern, Self-Directed, and Social.

These broad categories are then broken up into four principles per category. Each principle is then described by its Reality (its function) and Opportunity (the result of that function). Honestly, these two categories are a bit confusing–or at least the distinction between some of the entries are (the ability to participate and enables modern learners to participate, for example).

Overall, though, defining ‘modern learning’ through inquiry, self-direction, and connectivity is at the core of what we preach here at TeachThought. Let’s take a look at what it’s saying by exploring the first category, Modern Inquiry Learning.

12 Principles Of Modern Learning:


The 4 principles in of Modern Inquiry Learning, according to the graphic, are Compile, Contribute, Combine, and Change, with their respective Realities and Opportunities shown below.


Reality: The ability to save and retrieve information in a variety of formats

Opportunity: Give modern learners virtually ‘unlimited’ capacity to retrieve and store information


Reality: The ability to participate in more complex projects

Opportunity: Enables learners to participate in more complex projects


Reality: The ability to reuse and build upon the work of others (ed note: as we are doing with this post)

Opportunity: Allows learners to move beyond individual and isolated projects


Reality: The ability to quickly obtain learning feedback from multiple sources

Opportunity: Enables learners to continuously improve work

Our Take

While the graphic doesn’t really get at the core values of what makes each approach (Inquiry, Self-Direction, Connectivity) valuable and worthwhile (and so misses a huge opportunity), the trifecta of the three does in fact represent prevailing movements in progressive education. Technology, for example, would be a part of each. It supports inquiry and self-direction while being both a cause and effect of connectivity.

How should you use this to guide your teaching? You could take the verbs shown here (e.g., contribute, correlate, etc.) and design project-based learning or related learning playlist activities alongside your students. You could also present a document like these at staff or department meetings by slamming it down on the table and asking ‘Where’s the progress?!’

Probably not that last thing.

image attribution Richard Olsen ; previously published at


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