Principles for 21st-Century Learning


Our Approach to Learning

Continuous learning is different from the traditional classroom. Rather than lectures and textbooks, contemporary learning is curated from online learning resources, accessed just when needed, and facilitated by peers as well as experts.

As researched and reported by John Seely Brown*, founder of the Institute for Research on Learning, this is a “new culture of learning,” based on several assumptions about the world and how learning occurs:

  • The world is changing faster than ever and our skill sets have a shorter life
  • The world is getting more connected than ever before
  • In this connected world, mentorship takes on new importance and meaning
  • Challenges we face are multi-faceted requiring systems thinking and socio-technical sensibilities
  • A new culture of learning needs to leverage social and technical infrastructures in new ways
  • Skills are important but so are mindsets and dispositions
  • Innovation is more important than ever – but turns on our ability to cultivate imagination
  • Play is the basis for cultivating imagination and innovation
  • Understanding play is critical to understanding learning

Our Guiding Principles

As a new culture of learning emerges through continuous lifelong learning, we aspire to these Guiding Principles for the UNE Academy:

  • We consider learners to be colleagues and ourselves to be coaches, not experts. Learners lead their own journeys. We serve as “guides on the side rather than sages on the stage.”
  • We focus on the development of talent more than the mastery of content.
  • We believe the process is as important as the product.
  • We support learners by helping them understand and communicate their past experience and future aspirations.
  • We help learners leverage their goals, interests, and passions to identify incremental goals — starting with their current level of experience and knowledge — to help them step up to the next level.
  • We use inquiry-based, reflective questions rather than lecturing or jumping to answers.
  • We do not aspire to bring all learners to a single level, but help each learner take their own next steps, starting from where they are now.
  • We focus on building and recognizing learner successes and foster lifelong learning skills.
  • * A New Culture of Learning (2011). Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown. Retrieved on 2/12/16 from
  • Photo by Štefan Štefančík via Unsplash