Purpose of Learning


…that the gap between what cognitive science is learning and what schools are doing is getting wider and wider. The reality of education today challenges us to rethink our focus.  The solution for meeting the needs of our learners is not algorithmic, following a set path for all students to follow.  It is in fact heuristic, breaking away from the path to allow students to discover personalized, creative strategies; challenging their thinking to become self-directed learners.

As educators, we must consider abandoning controlling the learners’ learning, and instead direct the teaching and learning toward giving students the necessary skills they need to navigate their own educational journey.  In 2009, Daniel Pink, in his best-selling book Drive, examined the elements of autonomy, mastery, and purpose as essential for motivation and engagement. So, why is it in these challenging times of 2022  we have, in fact, increased compliance and controls in our schools?  We keep hearing of teachers being charged to catch kids up to what they lost in the pandemic and in this rush to move kids along through the curriculum.  We have bypassed the most important connection of all… helping students to understand the purpose of the learning.

Yes, the gap between what cognitive science is learning and what schools are doing has gotten wider. The components of the DNA of Learning give us a blueprint to transform science into practice.



Elaine M. Millen, M.Ed. C.A.G.S., has over 50 years of experience in education as a teacher, principal, director of special education, curriculum director, and assistant superintendent of schools.  She has taught at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.  As an educational consultant/instructional coach, she has worked countrywide with hundreds of school leaders in areas of leadership, instructional coaching, and student engagement.  She worked with Brown University as a consultant, guiding project work.  Elaine.millen90@gmail.com


Authors:  Dr. Robert K. Greenleaf was formerly a professional development specialist at Brown University. Bob has 45 years of experience in education ranging from the superintendent, principal, teacher, & special education.  As President of Greenleaf Learning Bob has traveled the world conducting Brain & Learning Institutes.  Dr. Bob’s doctoral work was at Vanderbilt with undergrad psychology.  bob@greenleaflearning.com