Competency 9

Develop and promote a learner- and learning-focused educational environment.

Educational leaders must have the ability to:

  • Evaluate the key aspects of organizational climate and the factors that influence climate.
  • Apply current research to the development and improvement of the educational environment.
  • Create and monitor a positive learning environment for all staff and students.
  • Provide appropriate accommodations.
  • Provide opportunity for diverse learners.
  • Leverage opportunities provided by diversity.

Educational leaders must have the knowledge and ability to promote the success of all learners by promoting a positive institutional culture, providing an effective instructional program, applying best practice to learning, and designing comprehensive professional growth plans for staff (NPBEA, 2002).

Educational leaders must have the ability and knowledge to:

  • Lead and assess a learning culture: develop, implement, measure, and assess strategies and results.
  • Assess and improve culture and climate collaboratively.
  • Examine the elements of a learner-centered and learning-centered environment.
  • Consider physical, social, and psychological aspects of learning as they design instruction.
  • Support innovation and teamwork.
  • Create and monitor a positive working environment.
  • Plan for student support.
  • Promote non-egocentric, non-sociocentric thinking for self and others.
  • Promote the significance of diversity and respond to the needs of diverse learners, staff, and faculty.
  • Promote and believe in principles of equity and diversity.

Learner- and learning-focused instructional design and teaching is based on what is known about learning and cognition. The fundamental premise is successful learners, successful learning. Both learner satisfaction and learning outcomes are enhanced in a learner/learning-focused environment. "These key concepts describe the conditions that lead to learning, identify teaching practices and learning activities that create such conditions, and support the design of effective learning environments" (Educause Learning Initiative, 2009).

Weimer (2002, p.3) reminds us that "the oracle, the locus and ownership of knowledge, should reside in each student, and our principal goals as teachers must be to help our students discover the most important and enduring answers to life's problems within themselves." Learner/learning-focused means that teachers may not take credit for all of intelligent insights in their classrooms. The learner-focused teacher considers redesigning the teacher, rather than redesigning the course (Weimer).

A school that adopts and lives by these principles centers attention on learners rather than on teaching, curriculum, instruction or administration of the school. In a learner-centered school, education is done "with" instead of "to" students. Students feel connected in a learner-centered school; the student, his classmates and his teachers are "partners" in the learning process. These principles emphasize the active and reflective nature of learning and learners. From this perspective, educational practice will be most likely to improve when the educational system is redesigned with the primary focus on the learner. (Center for Development & Learning, November 1997)

Learner- and learning-focused educational environments adhere to the following principles developed by the American Psychological Association (APA, 2009). Mastery of Competency 9 is demonstrated through understanding and application of these principles:


  • Nature of the learning process.
    • The learning of complex subject matter is most effective when it is an intentional process of constructing meaning from information and experience.
  • Goals of the learning process.
    • The successful learner, over time and with support and instructional guidance, can create meaningful, coherent representations of knowledge.
  • Construction of knowledge.
    • The successful learner can link new information with existing knowledge in meaningful ways.
  • Strategic thinking.
    • The successful learner can create and use a repertoire of thinking and reasoning strategies to achieve complex learning goals.
  • Thinking about thinking.
    • Higher order strategies for selecting and monitoring mental operations facilitate creative and critical thinking.
  • Context of learning.
    • Learning is influenced by environmental factors, including culture, technology, and instructional practices.


  • Motivational and emotional influences on learning.
    • What and how much is learned is influenced by the learner's motivation. Motivation to learn, in turn, is influenced by the individual's emotional states, beliefs, interests and goals, and habits of thinking.
  • Intrinsic motivation to learn.
    • The learner's creativity, higher order thinking, and natural curiosity all contribute to motivation to learn. Intrinsic motivation is stimulated by tasks of optimal novelty and difficulty, relevant to personal interests, and providing for personal choice and control.
  • Effects of motivation on effort.
    • Acquisition of complex knowledge and skills requires extended learner effort and guided practice. Without learners' motivation to learn, the willingness to exert this effort is unlikely without coercion.


  • Developmental influences on learning.
    • As individuals develop, there are different opportunities and constraints for learning. Learning is most effective when differential development within and across physical, intellectual, emotional, and social domains is taken into account.
  • Social influences on learning.
    • Learning is influenced by social interactions, interpersonal relations, and communication with others.


  • Individual differences in learning.
    • Learners have different strategies, approaches, and capabilities for learning that are a function of prior experience and heredity.
  • Learning and diversity.
    • Learning is most effective when differences in learners' linguistic, cultural, and social backgrounds are taken into account.
  • Standards and assessment.
    • Setting appropriately high and challenging standards and assessing the learner as well as learning progress-including diagnostic, process, and outcome assessment-are integral parts of the learning process. (APA, 2009)


American Psychological Association. (2009). Learner-centered psychological principles. Retrieved January 10, 2009, from American Psychological Association Web site:

Center for Development & Learning. (1997). Learner-centered pyschological principles: A framewordk for school reform. Retrieved January 10, 2009, from Center for Development & Learning Web site:

Educause. (2009). Learner-centered concepts. Retrieved January 10, 2009, from Educause Learning Initiative Web site:

National Policy Board for Educational Administration. (2002). Standards for advanced programs in educational leadership: For principals, superintendents, curriculum developers, and supervisors. Retrieved January 7, 2009, from National Policy Board for Educational Administration Web site:

Weimer, M. (2002). Learner-centered teaching: Five key changes to practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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