Effective Learning: Rigor, Engagement, Student-Centered Task, & Tech

What is effective learning?

Having a common understanding of effective learning is key. The research done by the Peer-Ed Team shows that “school-wide improvement in student achievement occurs only in schools where teachers and administrators have explicitly created a shared norm about effective learning."

Effective student learning includes:
Some questions and discussions to ponder about effective learning are found on this Lino It (seen below). It boils down to creating rigorous, authentic, engaging, student-centered tasks.

Creating student-centered tasks

If it's a mini-lesson, I think about what the students could do to demonstrate their learning (evidence of learning), and this would become their task. I also try to consider Multiple Intelligences and 21st century learning skills.

When I asked some of our Collaboration Coaches this question and I used the example of compound words, they came up with a variety of quick tasks such as:
  • have students with the singular noun written on a white board, (have the student describe what the one word means or act it out), and when they stand together, they make the compound word (followed with students explaining / acting out how their word changed when it became a compound word);
  • or, have students coin their own compound words based on their interests such as "skateball," and discuss its meaning. They could even write it out, or draw a picture about what their new word would look like. (Thanks Marla and Katrina for these ideas!)
If it requires more time and deeper learning, I consider project-based learning or connecting with an authentic audience about the topic. I also explore the Hess Matrix for ideas of how to dig in deeper.

I may even look at this task template to help spark ideas, then instead of using their suggestion of always writing an essay, I'd have them create:
After I know they've been exposed to several different mediums for creating their work, I'd let them choose what tool to use to best present their work.

Final thoughts

The bottom line is it's about creating student-centered learning tasks that have value and are worth doing.
  • How do you create student-centered tasks?
  • What do you believe effective learning is?
  • How else did this post connect with you?


  1. Tracy,
    I'm keeping this post in my Evernote notes under "philosophy" notes. I need to look back at it when I do my lesson plans!! Thank you for putting into words what I've been trying to do with my classes. Sometimes I can't stay working towards this direction, because I can't put it into words myself, and I "give up" for a bit, or don't know how to proceed. Tis post will help me articulate what I want to do, and so it will help me do it on a more consistent basis!
    Keep it up!

    1. Hi Joy,

      So glad this helped! When I was in the classroom full time, I knew the students were learning, I just wasn't sure which pieces made the learning effective. After many years of pondering that question, and learning from others, I finally took the time to reflect and write it down.

      Some pieces that need to be in place are implied, such as effective classroom management and managing collaborative groups. Here are some links for that:
      -Group contracts
      -Tips and Ideas from Cool Cat (Vicki Davis)
      -Keeping Kids Engaged in a 1:1 Project-Based Classroom
      -Classroom Management-- You Only Need 2 Rules
      -10 Steps to Managing Cooperative, Project-Based Learning Groups
      -Classroom Management That Creates Harmony Instead of Hostility
      -Five Quick Classroom Management Tips for Novice Teachers
      -Reflecting on two years of 1:1

      Thanks for helping me reflect on that piece so I could add it here in the comments.

      Kind regards,

    2. Wow!!! Look at all those resources!! THANK YOU!

    3. One more that should be added to the list above is Classes of Donkeys by David Truss. He really gets to the heart of intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation.

  2. As a Collaboration Coach this year, I am really trying to make effective learning evident in my classroom. This week our class read a realistic fiction story called "Lemonade for Sale". We also read a non fiction story about a 4 year old girl that had cancer, named Alex Scott(http://www.alexslemonade.org/), who sold lemonade and donated the money to cancer research. The students were moved by this little girl and that was the hook. We then compared and contrasted these different reasons to sell lemonade and came up with reasons of our own to sell anything. The students compared the two stories on Wallwisher. The link is below. I think that this lesson had an authentic audience for the students and they were able to express their feelings and learning through posters and a technology piece. I hope to keep bringing effective learning into my classroom because this was a week of learning and fun!

    Thanks for reading this,
    Megan Rivera


    1. Hi Megan,

      Thanks so much for leaving a comment with an example of a student-centered task, and how you had them compare two different stories using the sticky notes on Wallwisher to promote an authentic audience to view and interact with their ideas.

      Kind regards,

  3. Tracy,
    A wonderful post! This is something I am working at along with one other teacher but there is no real support. Not only have you provided me with what I need but you have also given me what is necessary to pass on to admin.
    Thank you my friend!


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