Project Purpose

To provide an overview of recent trends theories about learning and their application to classroom learning, teaching, and assessment. We hope it can guide the professional development of curriculum developers in the government, teacher educators, and frontline teachers. Anticipated uses of the website include:

  • As a resource to inform ongoing curriculum development;
  • As a resource for professional curriculum officers;
  • As a resource for professional development of educators.

The emphasis is on the theories, principles and examples drawn from cutting-edge literature, and relevant to Hong Kong’s current educational context. One distinctive feature is that we illustrate theories with cases and classroom examples.

Perspective and Framework

The review takes a rather new perspective for Hong Kong—the Learning Sciences (see http://www.isls.org/). This is a field of research that works in the intersection of theories about learning, the contexts in which learning happens, and the tools that are used. By “tools we mean the practices, curricula, materials, and computer-based technologies.

The Learning Sciences provide an excellent frame for examining learning theories in specific and practical contexts—such as in the context of Hong Kong’s educational system.

The website has seven sections:

  1. Background – Major work on how people learn
  2. Developments regarding general theories about learning
  3. Instructional approaches that are linked to the foregoing theories
  4. The Chinese Learner - Learner characteristics that influence learning
  5. Key Issues in Changing Education: Assessment, Learning Diversity and Technology
  6. Classroom examples and specific teaching strategies
  7. Teacher Corner

1) Background - Major Previous Reviews and Frameworks

We first introduce project goals and framework: We include some most important work in learning key in influencing internation trends.

  • How People Learn (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 1999; Donovan, Bransford, & Pellegrino, 1999).
  • Cambridge Handbook of Learning Sciences (Sawyer, 2006)
  • Nature of Learning: Using research to inspire practice  (Dumont et al., 2010; Centre for Educational Research and Innovation, OECD)2) Development of General Learning Theories

2) Development of General Learning Theories

There are different theories about learning. Behavioral psychology emphasizes providing stimuli to change students’ behavior. Cognitive psychology emphasizes short-term and long-term memory and the constraints that short-term memory places on learning. Constructivism emphasizes the key role of the student in learning and the interactive nature of learning. Some areas that we want to clarify are constructivism and the related instructional approaches of metacognition and self-regulated learning, which are important as a theoretical basis for learning how to learn and for lifelong learning, both of which are advocated in reforms in Hong Kong. In our experience, many teachers struggle with understanding how to cultivate learning how to learn, thus it is important to clarify the core ideas and show how learning how to learn can be accomplished.

We also emphasize new areas of social constructivism that has received relatively little attention in Hong Kong so far. “Collaborative learning” is not actually new, but is usually regarded as a teaching method to motivate students. We put it forward as something more than that: as a fundamental human competence as a learning theory. We will show why it is important to regard it as an advanced form of learning, and how it is possible to cultivate it. There are also concerns with the practical problems with collaborative learning, and classroom examples will be shown.

3) Instructional Approaches

We introduce common instructional approaches that are based on the different learning theories in the research literature. We include cases and vignettes to illustrate the links between theory and practice. Even though the models may look unfamiliar, many teachers are already practising parts of them. This website aims to show teachers the links between their good practices and strong theories and instructional models developed in the research literature. We have attempted to find local examples as possible, or at least suggest some ways in which the approaches would need to be modified for Hong Kong’s educational context.

4) Learner characteristics

The next section in the review is concerned with a variety of beliefs, attitudes, and learner characteristics that influence learning performance. Understanding the various factors and how they influence learning is essential to the design of effective learning in Hong Kong schools.

5) Issues on Assessment, Learner Diversity and Technology

This section identifies several key areas of importance 21st century teachers need to know in light of changing theories of learning and educational reforms. Three key areas are included: Assessment, learner diversity and technology.  We discuss relations between learning and assessment in light of learning theories and we also discuss new forms of assessment. Teachers now face many problems of learner diversity with changes in academic structure; we suggest that strategies catering for individual differences also need to be related to learning theories.  We also include information on key ideas on technology-enhanced learning as Hong Kong move towards 4th 5-year plan of incorporating ICT in teaching and learning.

6) Classroom Practice and strategies

We showcase specific classroom examples to illustrate how the learning theories and instructional approaches are currently implemented in Hong Kong classrooms. We include examples from different subject areas.

7) Teacher Corner

We show teachers’ responses and reflections on questions teachers often ask about the barriers and constraints they face in classrooms as they engage in learning and pedagogical innovation. A glossary of terms is included in this section for easy reference.