Higher Education Framework & PEN Principles

Updated: 6 days ago


he learning sciences bring together research from transdisciplinary fields to provide critical insight to support instructional design, teaching, and learning within PK-12 education and higher education. Through research and collaboration, educational institutions and centers are developing frameworks to support student success building upon the learning sciences.


The Science of Learning Research Centre (SLRC), which was founded in 2013 and funded by the Australian Research Council Special Research Initiative, provides extensive resources for pre-school, primary, secondary, and tertiary levels that build upon scientifically-validated learning tools and strategies for educators and students. As shared by the SLRC, they have brought together “more than 100 neuroscientists, psychologists, and education researchers” from across Australia to collaborate on programs to better understand learning.


There are two key resources published by SLRC that are recommended to review.


The first resource is the Higher Education Learning Framework (HELF) which provides an evidence-informed model for university learning. The framework includes seven principles of learning that align with the science of learning. According to the HELF handbook, “A science of learning lens was applied during development, threading together the often-disparate thinking in education, neuroscience, and psychology, to offer a convergent framework on effective learning in higher education” (Nugent et al., 2019, p. 1). The framework can be broken up into the seven principles of learning that build upon the science of learning. The HELF handbook includes seven chapters that align with each of the principles. All of the seven chapters include (a) an explanation of the principle, (b) implications for teachers, students, and assessment, and (c) a discussion of the current literature relating to the principle.


HELF: Seven Principles of Learning


1. Learning as becoming

2. Contextual learning

3. Emotions and learning

4. Interactive learning

5. Learning to learn and higher order thinking

6. Learning challenge and difficulty

7. Deep and meaningful learning. (Nugent et al., 2019, p. 1)


Higher Education Learning Framework: An evidence informed model for university learning. Nugent A., Lodge, J. M., Carroll, A., Bagraith, R., MacMahon, S., Matthews, K. E. & Sah, P. (2019). Brisbane: The University of Queensland.


The second SLRC resource provides twelve Psychology, Education, and Neuroscience (PEN) principles. The PEN Principles were developed by SLRC researchers to support teaching and learning. Each principle includes supporting research, videos, podcasts, and an infographic that can be used by educators and students.


PEN Principles, SLRC


PEN Principles

It should be noted that the principles are inter-related and not hierarchical. The strategies provided are suggestive and not exhaustive. The authors also note that the HELF can be "adopted and adapted" to create a personalized framework for other contexts.


Author: Dr. Kristen Betts


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