How Youth Learn
How Youth Learn

The Conditions of Learning: Research Highlights PDF SHARE
SEE ALSO: Mind, Brain & Education | Teenage Brain | Adolescent Development |
Mindsets | Motivation & Mastery | Social & Emotional Learning

HOW DO YOUTH LEARN BEST IN THE HIGH SCHOOL YEARS? What “conditions of learning” help students thrive? What structures and practices get in the way? Decades of research in the learning and cognitive sciences offer important answers.

Ned's GR8 8: An Insider's Guide to the Teenage Brain

In this funny and fast-paced 6-minute "NED talk," a hand-drawn adolescent brain—complete with backpack, zits, and a journal he keeps about school—knocks out eight powerful conditions of learning, from feeling okay to planning next steps.

See also:

Sizer, Theodore R. Horace's Compromise: The Dilemmas of the American High School (1984).

Rose, Mike. Possible Lives: The Promise of Public Education in America (1995)

Edutopia: Project-Based Learning

TED Talk: Ken Robinson Says Schools Kill Creativity (2006)

In a recent paper, “Realizing the Potential of Learning in Middle Adolescence,” cognitive psychologists Robert Halpern, Paul Heckman, and Rick Larson remind us:

The bottom line: Young people can be—and want to be—fully engaged learners. The evaluation research on longstanding school networks that put these principles into practice—like Expeditionary Learning, Big Picture, Early College High School, and High Tech High—finds deeply engaged students motivated to do their best (National Research Council and the Institutes of Medicine, 2004; Castellano, Stringfield & Stone, 2003; Kemple, Hirliahiy & Smith, 2005).

The prevailing narrative, however, is one of student disengagement. Currently, one in five students fails to graduate from high school with their peers (U.S. Department of Education, 2013). One in four African American students and nearly one in five Hispanic students attend high schools where graduating is not the norm (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). School-based studies that follow young people over time find a decrease in motivation to learn through the middle adolescent years and a related decline in willingness to take on challenging learning tasks (Marks, 2000; Stipek, 2004; Vedder-Weiss & Fortuc, 2011).

What causes this disengagement?

Halpern and his colleagues point to “a sizable discrepancy between what we know about how high school aged youth learn best and the characteristic practices of high schools” (Halpern et al, 2012, p. 2).

The good news: We know the core elements of effective learning (Halpern et al., 2012).