Principles of Learning

Updated: 1 day ago

How do humans learn best?

By WEquil.School founders Sumay, Aila, and Joe McPhail.

During the pandemic the WEquil Family began an experiment in education. We interviewed hundreds of families, read dozens of books, and spent countless hours trying to answer a single question...

How do people learn best?

Not surprisingly, thousands of thought leaders, parents, teachers, and scholars have tried to answer this question. In this article we share ten perspectives together provide powerful answers. We provide summaries and links to each perspective...and then summarize them into the five principles of learning that we now use at WEquil.School. We also wrote a Tweet Thread Summary:

Ten perspectives to prepare young people for the New Digital Economy

  1. Documentary on High Tech High - Most Likely to succeed

  2. Ken Robinson - Do schools kill creativity?

  3. Jordan Peterson - Importance of Reading and Writing

  4. Paul Graham - The Lesson to Unlearn

  5. Elon Musk on why he created a homeschool

  6. Steve Jobs - Stay hungry ... stay foolish

  7. Rick Flurie - A different approach to education

  8. Jeff Maggioncalda - The future of jobs and education

  9. Sal Khan - Let's teach for mastery

  10. Naval Ravikant - Arm Yourself With Specific Knowledge

Let's jump right in!

1. Documentary on High Tech High - Most Likely to Succeed

Link: Most Likely to Succeed Documentary

Most Like to Succeed is an educational documentary available on Amazon Prime. Public education became necessary during the industrial revolution, when people needed to be trained in specific skills to perform well at factories. Now, technology is continuing to replace jobs that don’t require human creativity. Some examples of these jobs include cashiers, receptionist, and waiters. Yet despite these technological changes, the public education system has largely stayed the same. In order to succeed in the modern world, Most Likely to Succeed says we must first adapt to technological advances and approach learning differently. Most Likely to Succeed mostly focuses on a charter school called High Tech High that is implementing a new radical approach to education. One principle of High Tech High is project-based learning (PBL), which they demonstrate at the end of each year to the public. This helps students retain their knowledge and skills because the information they learn is relevant. While creating projects, they also developing soft skills such as confidence and public speaking that are becoming more valuable in today's economy. Read our article about how we use Project Based Learning!

2. Ken Robinson - Do schools kill creativity?

Sir Ken Robinson is a British author and education advisor. He is critical of the public education which he says drains creativity and stigmatizes failure. Back in the industrial revolution if you had a degree, you were guaranteed a job. That isn’t the case anymore, but the education system hasn’t changed. Robinson believes that education should be personalized because everyone learns differently, and that arts and creative subjects should be held in the same esteem as math and science. Read our article on the Personalized Economy!

3. Jordan Peterson - Importance of Reading and Writing

Dr Peterson is a clinical psychologist, author and professor. He often stresses the importance of reading and writing to develop your ability to think. According to Peterson, the first step to writing is to find a problem you are interested in and then research it so you have something to say about the problem. Once you’ve done that, you can start organizing and summarizing information from your resources.

Remember to include your opinions to add value to the reader. Pick the right words using trial and error, socialize your ideas, and apply sound judgement. By reworking your sentences, you hone your ability to articulate. Your speech is your most powerful tool and will lead you to success. Never change your writing to please others, especially if you don’t agree with it. This will slow the process of finding your true voice.

Discover how our students learn to share their voice!

4. Paul Graham - The Lesson to Unlearn


Paul Graham is a co-founder of the YCombinator, the most successful startup incubator in the world. In this essay he talks about why students should not focus their learning solely on getting good grades. He criticizes public school homework and tests for being highly hackable, meaning students notice trends in tests and adapt their learning to get better grades. This is because they can only test for facts.

This is very different from the real world, where graduates are tested on things that are not hackable. These real world “tests” are not based on fact and not enforced by an authority. This is problematic because students who are trained to hack the test don’t have practice facing real world, unhackable tests such as creating something valuable to others.

Discover why we don't have tests at WEquil.School.

5. Elon Musk on why he created a homeschool

In this video, Musk stresses the importance of explaining the application of learning. He mentions that the brain discards information it believes is not relevant, so teaching a student about something without demonstrating its real life application will decrease student retention. The last point he makes is to teach to problems instead of tools because you will learn the tools along the way, and will automatically know the application and relevance.

Learn how project-based learning helps students apply knowledge!

6. Steve Jobs - Stay hungry ... stay foolish

In a graduation speech at Stanford, Steve Jobs encourages the new graduates to follow their curiosity, no matter where it takes them. He says that you should dive into what you are interested in even if it doesn’t seem to be practical. Jobs recounts that after dropping out of college, he sat in on a calligraphy course. At the time, he was simply interested in calligraphy; and in no way did it connect to his aspirations in computer science nor would it get him a job. Later, however, he discovered useful applications for what he learned!

His experience in calligraphy class actually helped him develop aesthetically pleasing computer styles and fonts that are so distinguishing to the Mac. Jobs also points out that everyone dies at one point, and life is too short not to do what you love. By reflecting on his mortality it would help him focus his mind on the things that matter most. Above all his message is to find your interests and follow them to create value for others. Discover how WEquil.School helps students create projects that build on their strengths and interests while also adding real value to the world!

7. Rick Flurie - A different approach to education