Early childhood and schools

Innovative Learning Environments: Strands and Outcomes


The project will include three different types of activities:


Analytical Work


The common image of a teacher standing in front of a class, providing information to students sitting passively at their desk is simply archaic, according to contemporary scientific views of the learning process. But what exactly do we know? While traditional education has emphasised memorization and the mastery of text, research on learning has shown that people construct new knowledge and understandings based on what they already know and believe. The importance of allowing students to take control of their own learning and, thereby, become active learners who are able to understand complex subject matter, is another major finding of the learning sciences. This can be achieved by taking meta-cognitive as well as motivational and affective factors in learning into account. In general, learning must be seen as a social, cultural, intrapersonal and, most of all, active process.


While there is no universal best teaching practice, general principles of teaching and learning – that can enhance our understanding of the teaching-learning process – unquestionably exist. The goal of the analytical strand of the project is to provide evidence on the cognitive, affective, social, motivational and developmental factors that constitute the learning process. These key research findings will be synthesized in order to use this knowledge to redesign classrooms and other learning environments so that students learn more deeply and effectively.


Outcome: Research-Based Report on Learning Principles


Empirical Work


When looking into the field, a great deal of innovative educational initiatives can be found all around the world. The learning sciences provide support for core features of many of these innovative learning environments: their instructional methodology focusing on experience and reflection, their integrated curriculum, and their focus on independent and customised learning combined with formative assessment. There is sound evidence that a deep conceptual understanding of complex concepts is best achieved in settings that involve learners and other people in the community in activities in which knowledge is being applied. In this regard, existing innovative learning environments are ahead of mainstream education and can serve as meaningful examples for the renewal of learning environments in schools around the globe.

The empirical strand of the project will identify concrete examples of the innovative learning environments that already exist in OECD countries as well as in non-member countries. There will be a first compilation of cases from which a subset will be selected for case study analysis. The field work teams will include researchers, local experts, policy makers and Secretariat staff.


Outcome: Report on Innovative Cases


Policy Implications


The third component of the project will focus on making the bridge between research and practice, on the one hand, and on policy-makers’ needs on the other. Throughout the project, we will engage with the community of policy makers and innovators to identify and discuss the implications of the results from the analytical and empirical work. The outcomes will be connected to policy experiences in different countries and to already-existing policy approaches that foster effective learning environments and respond to key challenges such as high drop-out rates.


In addition to the concrete activities that will be carried out, the project will provide a platform for different stakeholders – countries, foundations, researchers, innovators and practitioners – to engage in a dialogue about the possibility for change in today’s schools. This dialogue will not only take place at the conferences throughout the project to discuss the outcomes of the different activities, but also through the project’s website. This website will provide a database of the cases covered by the empirical work of the project and will connect innovative learning environments from all around the world.


Outcome: Conferences and a Short Report with Policy Implications


Further information 

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