chapter 7



We ensure dynamic, engaging, impactful, and joyful learning experiences owned and driven by learners.






If asked, "Why do you send your children to school?", the most common answer one would expect would be "to learn". Such an answer, however, is so broad as to be effectively useless, as it raises more questions than it answers. Questions such as:

  • What and how much will be learnt - and who decides this? 
  • How will the learning occur?
  • Who will facilitate the learning - and who will ensure the learning occurs? 
  • How do we know when we have learned - and who decides how we show our learning?
  • What IS learning anyway? Is there even a shared understanding of what learning looks like?

The Learning Principle draws on the collective experiences of AAIE members applying best practices to answer these aspects of learning. The outcome is the Learning Principle: “We ensure dynamic, engaging, impactful, and joyful learning experiences owned and driven by learners.” 

Ted Mockrish - CIS Bangalore

Principle in Action

What does this principle look like in action? The following quotes represent examples for how this principle is manifested in a school.


“All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason’ is an Immanuel Kant quote that I have selected to describe this semester of remote learning at CIS. Over the course of the semester I have reflected on the reasons for learning and how it has been accomplished through new and interesting methods. I have particularly enjoyed the Personal Project. Being based on personal interests and experiences, I appreciate the level of creativity this emancipates is limited only by my imagination. Based on the feedback I have received from teachers, I have set myself the goal of learning and thinking more about how I can apply knowledge to the real world. This would let me know I have really understood the true meaning of the lessons, and have figured out the reasons for them.” - Reflection from a G10 student at Cebu International School, demonstrating what the Learning Principle aims to engender. 



“As teachers committed to our school’s mission, we are constantly assessing our approach in the classroom. We strive towards improving the teaching and learning that happens in our classrooms on a daily basis. When students exhibit joy in the classroom, we know we have set the stage for authentic and deep learning. These core beliefs are outlined in our school’s guiding statements. A desire to learn and the expression of joy during the learning process are key ingredients for success in our classrooms. We model this as teachers.” - Comment from a  teacher upon reading the Learning Principle.



“As I see it from my head of school perspective, the problem with the type of “learning” currently occurring in so many schools around the world can be linked to the failure to apply developmentally appropriate best practices by educators and policy-makers. Despite considerable ongoing debate, there is sufficient evidence to support numerous educational practices. When applied contextually, these practices lead to relevant, challenging, joyful learning experiences that produce graduates with the qualities that empower individuals to achieve success in life however they define it. The good news is we know enough to effect positive change in our schools. All we need now is for more and more people to just do it, and education can transform our world, one student at a time!” - Comment from a Head of School on the state of learning in schools, highlighting the need for the Learning Principle



“What does it mean when parents say we send our children to school to learn? Specific answers will differ, but in general, I think most parents will agree we basically want our children to be happy while they learn both academics and life skills, to learn to value and enjoy the process of learning, to make connections between what they are learning and the real world, and to prepare them to not only be successful in life after school, but to also do so positively while contributing to making our world a better place.” - Comment from a parent when asked what they mean when they say they send their children to school to learn






The learning principle is about identifying and providing relevant, engaging, and challenging learning that really matters to our learners. 

The heart of this principle is about identifying and providing for relevant, engaging, challenging learning that really matters to our learners.

In the new reality created by the learning principle, the essential compelling question becomes, “What's worth learning and why?”

This involves defining what learning is, and continually seeking the best ways how to do it. It involves careful consideration of what is worth learning in the context of the school and the learner, and how that learning will enable schools to empower their learners to reach their clearly defined learning intentions. As a constructivist process, the learning principle also considers how we know what we’ve learned in order to create and build on meaning.




Provocations are intended to be tools to use within a school community to get people thinking creatively and in a generative way about the elements of each of the Principles. As reflective leaders in the change process, we must use fearless inquiry to step out of our comfort zone, examine our current practices, and design approaches for the future. The following questions are designed to prompt conversations within your school community. Your answers to these questions should challenge the status quo. If you are fearful of your answers, it is an indication that you are exploring this principle at a deep level.

  • What are the beliefs and values that we hold as sacred for the Learning Principle? Can we articulate an objective rationale for these beliefs and values? And do these beliefs and values align with our key learning strategies and methodologies? 
  • In what ways does our system maintain outdated learning practices that no longer serve our students? Are there any blind spots that we must recognise, own, and unpack? 
  • How do we provide students with the opportunity to exercise their agency, and nurture their empowerment in the learning process? What have we learned from listening to students about what works for them and what doesn't? What systems do we have in place to access student voice on their learning experiences?
  • What can we name as significant changes to our systems over the last ten years that have involved shifting learning practices including equity, grading/assessment, alternative scheduling, acceleration, and policy practices? How did we make the shifts, individually and as a collective? How can professional learning support all educators in pedagogy along with classroom practice and instruction? 
  • What habits, behaviors, and dispositions are required for this principle to be realised? 

Guidance and Tools for Learning




For each of our NEW SCHOOL Principles, we provide a Pathway that attempts to tell the story of a school on a journey towards putting that principle into practice. These narratives are only approximations, because every school is different and change is not as linear as this represents. It is messy, imperfect, and iterative. To apply the metaphor of a ‘pathway’, it is often one step forward and several steps in reverse. The spirit of this pathway is simply to provide ‘a portrait of possibility’. It offers a picture of what progress might look like, as it can be easier to imagine something if a possible model is provided.

We offer four stages along this journey, for schools to reflect on their current reality and imagine what might be next:

  • Thinking about it...What might it look like when your school is “thinking about” the Learning Principle? (This can involve a range of applications, stakeholders and ideas, beyond a single point in time or a right answer.)
  • Working on it...What might it look like when your school is “working on” the Learning Principle?
  • Living it...What might it look like when your school is “living” this Principle? 
  • Transforming it...If you get this far along the continuum, what would a transformation of your school’s relationship with the Learning Principle look like in practice? How would you tell that story?

Learning Pathway





Making connections to each of the Principles, while putting one in the center, we offer a narrative description of what types of connections among and between the seven principles might exist.

When you see this Principle holistically with the other 6 New School Principles, what might those connections look like in practice? What is unleashed? What do (might) you see? What do you think? What do you wonder?