How People Learn 101: Theory and Practice

By Krishna P. C. Madhavan1, Sean Brophy1

1. Purdue University

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One of the primary goals of the NCN Education and Assessment Group is to allow insights from engineering education research to diffuse into the engineering curricula. This resource is designed to provide faculty members designing a course using nanoHUB resources a quick introduction to the How People Learn [see references] framework. We raise the following fundamental questions that are critical to think about when designing course content using the nanoHUB.

1. What makes an effective learning environment?
2. What factors influence student learning?
3. What opportunities exist for my students?

This resource also attempts to help you establish links between how you write learning objectives, how you seek evidence for student learning through assessment, and the actual implementation of materials in the curriculum.


The NCN Education and Assessment Group seeks to enable an evidence-based transformation of the engineering curriculum by disrupting less effective pedagogies through the use of NCN resources. We focus on nanoscale engineering and science.


Presentation prepared and presented by Prof. Sean Brophy at the NCN Simulation-based Learning Workshop held on November 4-5, 2009 in Chicago, IL.


Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L., and Pellegrino, J.W. (eds). (1999). How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Retrieved online April 4, 2009 from

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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Brophy, S. (NCN Education and Assessment Group) (2009). How People Learn 101: Theory and Practice. Presentation at the NCN Simulation-based Learning Workshop. Chicago, IL.
  • Krishna P. C. Madhavan, Sean Brophy (2010), "How People Learn 101: Theory and Practice,"

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