Jan. 31, 2002

The American Psychological Association in 1993 published a report from its Presidential Task Force on Psychology in Education defining twelve principles for learner-centered education. These principles include:


    • Principle 1: The nature of the learning process.
      Learning is a natural process of pursuing personally meaningful goals. It is active, volitional, and internally mediated. It is a process of discovering and constructing meaning from information and experience, filtered through the learner's unique perceptions, thoughts, and feelings.

    • Principle 2: Goals of the learning process.
      The learner seeks to create meaningful, coherent representations of knowledge regardless of the quantity and quality of data available.

    • Principle 3: The construction of knowledge.
      The learner links new information with existing and future-oriented knowledge in uniquely meaningful ways.

    • Principle 4: Higher-order thinking.
      Higher-order strategies for "thinking about thinking" -- for overseeing and monitoring mental operations -- facilitate creative and critical thinking and the development of expertise.


    • Principle 5: Motivational influences on learning.
      The depth and breadth of information processed, and what and how much is learned and remembered, are influenced by
      1. self-awareness and beliefs about personal control, competence, and ability
      2. clarity and saliency of personal values, interests, and goals
      3. personal expectations for success or failure
      4. affect, emotion, and general states of mind; and
      5. the resulting motivation to learn.

    • Principle 6: Intrinsic motivation to learn.
      Individuals are naturally curious and enjoy learning, but intense negative cognitions and emotions (e.g., feeling insecure, worrying about failure, being self-conscious or shy, and fearing corporal punichment, ridicule, or stigmatizing labels) thwart this enthusiasm.

    • Principle 7: Characteristics of motivation-enhancing learning tasks.
      Curiosity, creativity, and higher-order thinking are stimulated by relevant, authentic learning tasks of optimal difficulty and novelty for each student.


    • Principle 8: Developmental constraints and opportunities.
      Individuals progress through stages of physical, intellectual, emotional, and social development that are a function of unique generic and environmental factors.


    • Principle 9: Social and cultural diversity.
      Learning is facilitated by social interactions and communication with others in flexible, diverse (in age, culture, family background, etc.) and adaptive instructional settings.

    • Principle 10: Social acceptance, self-esteem, and learning.,br>Learning and self-esteem are heightened when individuals are in respectful and caring relationships with others who see their potential, genuinly appreciate their unique talents, and accept them as individuals.


    • Principle 11: Individual differences in learning.
      Although basic principles of learning, motivation, and effective instruction apply to all learners (regardless of ethnicity, race, gender, physical ability, religion, or socioeconomic status), learners have different capabilities and preferences for learning mode and strategies. These differences are a function of environment (what is learned and communicated in different cultures or other social groups) and heredity (what occurs naturally as a function of genes).

    • Principle 12: Cognitive filters.
      Personal beliefs, thoughts, and understandings resulting from prior learning and interpretations become the individual's basis for constructing reality and interpreting life experiences.

The "Learner Centered" perspective couples a focus on individual learners (heredity, experiences, perspectives, backgrounds, talents, interests, capacities, and needs) with a focus on learning (the best available knowledge about learning and how it occurs and about teaching practices that are most effective in promoting the highest levels of motivation, learning, and achievement for all learners.

  1. Learners are distinct and unique.

  2. Learners' unique differences include their emotional states of mind, learning rates, learning styles, stages of development, abilities, talents, feelings of efficacy, and other academic and nonacademic attributes and needs.

  3. Learning is a constructive process that occurs best when what is being learned is relevant and meaningful to the learner and when the learner is actively engaged in creating his or her own knowledge and understanding by connecting what is being learned with prior knowledge and experience.

  4. Learning occurs best in a positive environment, one that contains positive interprersonal relationships and interactions, that contains comfort and order, and in which the learner feels appreciated, acknowledged, respected, and validated.

  5. Learning is a fundamentally natural process; learners are naturally curious and basically interested in learning about and mastering their world.