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Design Principles

Design Principles for Schools

Putting the Science of Learning and Development Into Action

Environments and life experiences help shape our brains, which are changing and growing throughout our lives. A growing body of science supports the implications for education—that if we are able to create the right conditions for learning, we can help every student learn and thrive. Researchers can use this emerging knowledge to redesign a system in which all students have high-quality learning opportunities that ignite their curiosity and nurture their development.

This playbook points to principles to nurture innovations and effective school models that advance this change. It provides a framework—shown to the right—to guide the transformation of k-12 settings, illustrating how practitioners can implement structures and practices that support learning and development through its five components. These design principles do not suggest a single design or model for change, but rather illuminate the multiple ways that schools can be redesigned to support all learners.

Explore the playbook, or hover over a principle in the pictured framework.


Structures and practices that promote healthy attachments, long-term relationships, and trust among children, educators, school staff, and families.
Structures and practices that cultivate supportive school environments to promote a sense of belonging and physical, emotional, and identity safety.
Structures and practices that promote personalized, authentic, and culturally responsive learning and provide opportunities for conceptual understanding and meaning.
Structures and practices that develop cognitive, emotional, and social skills—such as growth mindsets, social awareness, and self-direction—that enable learning and development.
Structures and practices that support student well-being with ready access to targeted supports to address learning barriers or personal obstacles, building resilience and agency.
When these principles are integrated in transformative, personalized, empowering, and culturally affirming ways, they enhance development and learning.

Guiding Principles for
Equitable Whole Child Design