Creating Significant Learning Environments – A Reflection

Creating Significant Learning Environments, EDLD 5313, has been an intensive learning experience that shed some light on many questions I had throughout the previous courses. This helped clarify for more a bit more of HOW to create a significant learning environment. Each week we had a Zoom meeting, a discussion post and an assignment due. I have enjoyed the rigor and the opportunities to learn! Looking back, I certainly feel a sense of accomplishment in all that I have learned.

One strategy that I developed in EDLD 5303 that really helped me in this course, was to use the content of discussion posts as a precursor, and potentially a beginning rough draft, to the assignment of the week. Hopefully, I will be able to continue that practice. It strengthens the learning, builds connections, and guides my future writing assignments and blog posts.

Of course we always tie our learning in the Digital Learning and Leading program to the significant learning environment we are trying to create through our innovation plan. As I am implementing my innovation plan currently at work, this new learning in each course is helping me to build a successful STREAM camp for our students every step of the way.

I absolutely loved reading the New Culture of Learning by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown. It clarified some ideas and possibilities for creating significant learning environments. Previously I was feeling a sense of overwhelm regarding significant learning environments. I had the perception that the entire education system needed to be overhauled before teachers had the ability to create such environments. The New Culture of Learning bolstered thoughts of possibility and decreased overwhelm. The authors propose that teachers return to the more naturalistic perspective of learning. Children are born curious, soaking up information like sponges! I outlined some of these ideas in my post Cultivating to Connect. I also created a Sway presentation with the same content. I love the idea of teachers cultivating connections and creating an environment like a farm, so I made a funny little video called Farm as Classroom depicting the teacher as farmer.

We had opportunities to learn so much about the different learning philosophies this session! Of course in college, earning a bachelor’s degree in edcuation, I learned about Dewey, Vygotsky and Bloom’s taxonomy. However, I had no idea there were so many various philosophies. Some have even been developed since I was in college, and were new to me! I was especially interested to learn more about George Siemen’s ideas about Connectivism. In my post Learning Philosophies in Action, I explore the learning philosophies of Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism, and Connectivism. The STREAM camp in my innovation plan is largely built on the constructivist approach, because students will be given opportunities to explore and make their own connections.

The opportunity to consider Significant Learning Outcomes and the context and the learning situations for the STREAM camp in my innovation plan was a wonderful exercise! I used L. Dee Fink’s 3 Column Table to outline the various goals of the camp, including the Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) of engaging 400 students in a STREAM camp both virtually and face-to-face providing equal opportunities for exploration, learning, and support that includes choice.

After reading portions of Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins & Jay McTighe, I took the planning one step further. I took a closer look at the desired results of the camp and how the learning experiences and instruction would support those. As discussed in my Begin with the End in Mind post, I used the UbD plan and the Whereto to further outline how STREAM camp would be a significant learning environment for the participants.

Finally, I revisited my Growth Mindset plan previously developed in EDLD 5302. It was great opportunity to reflect on ways that my thinking has changed. Generally, I still believe the same things. However, now I am armed with more knowledge about learning theories and structure for meaningful planning that will help me create significant learning environments. I believe that having a growth mindset will serve students well if they are engaged in challenging and authentic work.

Beyond the required content and curriculum of the Digital Learning and Leading program, what I am learning most is about myself. The more I learn, the more I realize there is so much more to explore and experience. Above all, I am understanding more about my learning strategies and what works for me.

Some examples:


I have learned that I am more likely to retain material that I read if I am able to engage with it in multiple platforms. For example, if I just read the physical book, or a PDF on screen, I am not likely to retain it. However, if I can listen to the audiobook and refer to the Kindle or Scribd e-book and highlight notes, then I am more likely to retain the material. Even better, if I can find a video or podcast featuring the author expounding on their ideas from the text, that strengthens my learning.

Collaboration & Communication

I have come to rely on some of my classmates for instructional and emotional support throughout these sessions. We are able to share resources, and encourage each other through our learning process. I am learning a lot from my friends! I hope that they feel I offer as much as I am gaining from them. I have enjoyed strengthening my collective, mentioned in my blog post Cultivating to Connect. I look forward to continuing to work with my group throughout the remainder of the program.


As I discussed in my Learning Philosophies in Action post, choosing to be driven in my learning has not always been my strength. For this program, I have had developed some time-management strategies to keep myself on track. Otherwise, I can quickly get into a rabbit hole of seeking resources or stuck in the details of design, for example the placement of images on a page or the design of slides.

Additionally what I notice are the connections that I am making. If I am able to make a connection to the content I am reading about directly to my work or personal life experiences, it holds much more meaning for me. That indicates a direct correlation that for learning to have true meaning to students, they need authentic learning experiences. Students must be able to make a connection to their own lives and their learning experiences for the new learning to stick. I appreciate that in this program we are working on projects that are authentic and have the possibility of creating the ripple effect of helping other teachers create their own significant learning environments to deepen learning for students.


  • Fink, L. D. (2003). Self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. Jossey-Bass.
  • Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating significant learning experiences, revised and updated: an integrated approach to designing college courses (Kindle). Jossey-Bass.
  • Harapnuik, D. (2016, June 13). Why you need a BHAG to design learning environments.
  • Harapnuik, Dwayne . (2015). Creating Significant Learning Environments (CSLE)
  • Harapnuik, Dwayne. (2015). Edld 5313 Module 1EDLD 5313 Module 1 – Making Meaningful Connections
  • Harapnuik, D., Thibodeaux , T., & Cummings, C. (2018). Cova: Choice, Ownership and Voice through Authentic Learning (Vol. .9). Creative Commons.
  • McTighe, J., & Wiggins, G. P. (2013). Chapter 1. What Makes a Question Essential? In Essential questions: opening doors to student understanding (pp. 1–20). essay, ASCD.
  • McTighe, J. &Wiggins, G. P. (2005). Understanding by design. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
  • Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
  • Siemens, G. (2017, January 1). Connectivism. Foundations of Learning and Instructional Design Technology.

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