How can faculty present important content to be learned in ways that improve student learning?

Page 6: Balanced Learning Environments

In the HPL framework, a balanced learning environment is created when all four lenses are focused in ways that support one another. In other words, teachers should ask themselves the following questions:

  • Have I, as an instructor, discovered something of each learner’s background knowledge, interests, and social and cultural values, and have I helped them to become aware of how these things influence their opinions and perspectives?
  • Have I, as an instructor, offered rigorous content and helped my students learn with understanding rather than merely commit things to memory?
  • Have I, as an instructor, required high standards along with frequent opportunities for feedback, reflection, and revision in order to enhance the quality of learning?
  • Have I, as an instructor, developed course values or norms that foster lifelong learning? Have I made my goals and assumptions for the class explicit, and are these in line with their needs?

It is important to remember that achieving this kind of focus is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Rather, it should be a continuous process of discovery and improvement for each student and for the course at large.

Benefits to Learners

One of the foundational beliefs embodied in the HPL framework is that everyone can learn but that the ways in which that learning takes place may be different for different people. A balanced learning environment allows learners to have more control over their own academic experiences by vigorously assessing and improving their own learning. These are important steps in helping them to develop the attitudes and aptitudes of lifelong learners.


Listen to the audio clip below to further your understanding about creating balanced learning environments (time: 1:07).

View Transcript

A consistently applied learning framework like HPL is a useful tool with which instructors can formatively assess not only learning but also their own instruction. It can reveal under what circumstances instruction is effective and when it might need improvement. In a sense, this positions the instructor as the “Learner-in-Chief.” Moreover, this kind of self-assessment by an instructor is a way to walk in the learner’s shoes. The instructor may model for his or her students how to navigate and improve the current learning environment for the course. Doing so reflects a powerful and effective model for the students.


Take a few moments to view the following pages from the What Do You See? Perceptions of Disability module by clicking the links below. Identify which element of the HPL framework is demonstrated in each example, and reflect on the benefits for your students. As the previous diagram of the HPL framework depicts, there is a fair amount of overlap between the four areas. In these instances, choose the lens that you consider to be dominant, and simply note which of the other lenses are evident.


Poem: “Ursa Minor”

Film and Literature Portrayals


Education and Hobbies Paragraphs

This is an example of a knowledge-centered activity. The students are given content information that can be added to their current knowledge base about the topic. This content is tied to an activity students had done previously on this page, anchoring the knowledge to something they already know and making it more permanent.

Ursa Minor Poem and Activity

This is an example of a community-centered activity. The students are given the opportunity to share amongst themselves in a safe environment that allows them to learn from one another and identify and acknowledge differing points of view.

Film and Literature Portrayals Activity

This is an example of a learner-centered activity. The students are able to bring to the surface their beliefs, feelings, and possible misconceptions about disability, helping the instructor to address these areas during class.


This is an example of an assessment-centered activity. Once the students have completed the assessment activity, they may return to the corresponding Module pages to review content and to clarify or revise information where their previous answers could be improved. This re-evaluation of students’ answers allows them to review information about remaining misconceptions they may have.

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