The Growing Need

50% of students reported that their classes were boring, and up to one-third reported that they survived their school day by “goofing off” with their friends.1

We’ve all heard this before.  So much so that it is easy to assume that the existing features of schooling are the natural, inevitable order of things, or to blame educators for this intractable condition.

But that response distracts us from accurately identifying the true causes of these conditions and deprives us of the possibilities for change. The real culprit in producing and maintaining this environment of boredom in schools is a perverse, prevailing paradigm2 of learning in our schools, a paradigm we might label the Mental Model3.

The persistence of the Mental Model and the resulting practices that are derived from and directed by it are what drives the critiques within this paper.

The ten principles are not plans for action and do not directly describe practices to be undertaken. Instead, they lay out an alternative view, generalizations, and a new promise of education that provides guides for creating new actions and educational structures in educational settings. However, the specific actions to be undertaken must be invented4 by those who embrace, and want to use, the principles in their own educational setting.

Embracing the Principles of Learning, as guides for creating new thoughts and actions in educational settings, will more likely propel youth’s learning and development. Promoting and providing the knowledge base to support and encourage these changes is the purpose of this paper and the principles of learning that follow from it. Without them and in the future, if this persistent Mental Model and practices prevail, our future citizens and our society will be at risk.

— Introduction by Paul E. Heckman, Ph.D, Associate Dean and Professor at the University of California, Davis.


  1. Shernoff, D.J., Csiksentmihalyi, M., Schneider, B., & Shernoff, E.S. (2003). Student Engagement in High School Classes from the Perspective of Flow Theory, pp. 158-176. School Psychology Quarterly, 18, 2, p. 159.
  2. Gentner, D. and Stevens, A., Eds. (1983). Mental Models. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
  3. Gentner and Stevens, (1983).
  4. Heckman, P.E. and Montera, V.L. (2009). School Reform: The Flatworm in a Flat World: From Entropy to Renewal through Indigenous Invention. Teachers College Record, 111, 5, pp. 1328-1351.