Higher Education Framework & PEN Principles

Updated: May 31


The Learning Sciences and Mind, Brain & Education (MBE) Science are transdisciplinary fields that provide critical insight into instructional design, teaching, and learning. There are many educational resources available that connect to these fields to support student success.


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. According to 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). This framework provides an evidence informed model for university learning. The framework includes seven themes that align with the Learning Sciences and MBE Science. As shared by the authors, Nugent et al. (2019), “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” (p. 1). Principles were drawn from each theme. The HELF electronic book includes seven chapters, each based on the particular theme and principle. All of the seven chapters include (a) a detailed explanation of the principle, (b) strategies for university teachers, students, and assessment, and (c) literature relating to the principle.


The seven themes and principles include:


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


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 literature reviews serve as a starting point for further research.


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 recommended 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

As educators and students prepare for a new academic year, it is suggested to explore resources that build upon psychology, education, neuroscience as supported through the Learning Sciences and MBE Science.


In designing new courses, revising current ones, or pivoting across formats, the question to ask is: What’s in your course? Learn more about how INTERACT123 can support your work with research informed practices. Dr. Kristen Betts