Sie sind auf Seite 1von 13

Seven Principles 1

Playing the Whole Game:

A Detailed Breakdown of the Seven Principles of Teaching and Learning

Melissa Klein

Post University

Professor Dr. Susan Shaw

Seven Principles 2


David Perkins’ (2009) Making Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching Can

Transform Education, describes 7 principles of teaching are tremendously beneficial to teachers

and most importantly, students. This paper will discuss in detail the seven principles and

examples of teaching methods that violate those principles, while offering suggestions and

strategies to improve.

Play the Whole Game

The first principle Perkins (2009) discusses is the importance of students playing the whole

game in education. Playing the whole game refers to educating in a way that helps students see

the big picture of a topic. Instead of teaching one element at a time without students

understanding the “why” of what they are learning, teachers must create an educational

environment where students play a junior version of the whole game. Junior versions are the key

to learning the whole game by making it practical and doable. They allow learners to have a

reasonable challenge without the expectation of being an expert. A common way of teaching

today is “elements first”, teaching one element of the game at a time (Perkins, 2009, pg. 3). This

method of teaching is flawed because it prevents students from a deeper understanding of the

topic they are learning. Teaching students the junior version of a topic, allows them to see the big

picture and makes the challenges of learning a new element of a topic more meaningful.

A physics professor at the Oregon Institute of Technology is teaching a physics 101 class. He

writes an equation for the frequency of sound on the board. The students copy the equation,

memorize it for test time, and forget it later. Here is the problem with this scenario: teaching

element by element does not offer students a deeper understanding of the whole game of what

they are learning. Playing the whole game while learning should not be routine, it should require
Seven Principles 3

students to think and find the problem, not just solve it. Playing the whole game is not

emotionally flat, it involves discovery, creativity, and curiosity (Perkins, 2009). A suggestion of

how to help students have a deeper meaning of the physics behind the frequency of sound would

be to teach the whole game by relating to an ultrasound wave. Students seeing the whole game of

how physics plays an important role in the mechanism of ultrasound, promotes deeper

understanding and overall memory of the topic. The educator teaching physics in this scenario

should create a junior version of the whole game of physics in ultrasound to make it more

attainable for students who are just learning.

Make the Game Worth Playing

In order to make the game worth playing, educators must understand that intrinsic motivation

is directly related to students’ ability to fully grasp a topic. In order to increase intrinsic

motivation, there must be a connection and practical application to the students’ lives. Intrinsic

motivation declines over time because students “find increasingly little that is directly relevant or

useful in their daily lives” (Perkins, 2009, p. 56). According to Perkins (2009) the best ways to

make the game worth playing is to (1) create a generative topic that ties everything together for

the student, (2) educators must create clear goals depicting to students what they are meant to

learn (3) learners use activities to think and act on what they know and (4) ongoing assessment

early and often by educators (p. 65). Students who are fundamentally engaged in their learning

have an increased motivation to continue digging deeper to build on their understanding. In some

ways, making the game worth playing is similar to coaching. Coaches set high expectations and

build the commitment and confidence of their players by increasing intrinsic motivation.

Because of the importance of intrinsic motivation in playing the whole game, educators must be

cautious to not give students subtle signals of low expectations. Teacher expectations should
Seven Principles 4

foster a warm climate (socially and emotionally welcoming), thorough and careful feedback, add

difficult material to match the learners’ understanding, and allow more opportunities for the

student to respond (p. 70). Also, learners must feel that they have a choice in their learning.

Giving students options of how they progress in a project or where they focus their attention

promotes intrinsic motivation which in turn supports a broader, deeper understanding of the


A teacher at Capital High School, in Helena Montana is teaching about DNA, she decides to

play the movie Gattaca for students over the course of 2 weeks. Students watch the movie and

take a short quiz once the movie is over. Here’s what is wrong with this scenario: educators who

make the game worth playing teach what’s worth learning and connect it to student’s daily lives.

Playing a movie that has some discussion of DNA does not increase understanding of the topic

or intrinsically motivate students. This teacher did not offer high expectations of her students.

Educators who desire to make the game worth playing must intrinsically motivate students that

gives them enthusiasm for their learning. A suggestion for making the game worth playing for

students regarding DNA would be to find a way to somehow connect it to their daily lives.

Work on the Hard Parts

Working on the hard parts is essential to playing the whole game. The hard parts are the

difficult aspects of a topic, where the learner may have trouble. For example, Perkins (2009)

describes the hard parts while playing the piano, he defines them as the few measures within the

music piece that would give him the most “trouble” (p.79). Focusing on the hard parts isn’t

always fun, but it is essential to mastering the whole game. Mastering the hard parts isn’t a

matter of practice, it is accomplished by deconstructing and reconstructing them for deeper

Seven Principles 5

understanding. As an educator, when addressing the hard parts good timing is key. When, where

and how much to focus on are all important. Teachers should offer feedback early and often to

assess in a way that is designed to make the learner stronger and assist in their learning process.

Educators should use communicative feedback to ensure communication between teacher and

student is clear. Communicative feedback involves three elements: clarification, appreciation,

concerns, and suggestions (Perkins, 2009, p.86). Assessment can be in many different forms, it

can involve peer and self-assessment, communicative feedback by the educator, immediate

occasions to apply understanding, reintegration into the whole game, and implicit feedback.

There is a Diagnostic Medical Sonography (DMS) student who attended the program for two

years and then during her senior year went out to the workplace to begin the required externship

performing ultrasounds in a real-world diagnostic medical setting full time. This student was not

made aware of the hard parts of the ultrasound profession before leaving on externship. She was

uncomfortable speaking with physicians, making difficult calls related to pathology, and

handling unfortunate patient outcomes. Ultimately, she questioned her career decision in

ultrasound and unfortunately, she ended up dropping out of the program. Within this specific

scenario, students who have decided to apply and attend the DMS program already have an

interest and enthusiasm for the topic. The hard parts in this case are not academically related.

This student’s motivation to continue the program was shaken because of the professor failing to

address the hard parts. Educators must establish a trusting relationship with their students so that

the stress of the hard parts is minimized and ultimately students are able to regain their self-

assurance and intrinsic motivation to continue the program. In this case, the ultrasound

professors should have been pro-actively focused on the hard parts of the profession while
Seven Principles 6

incorporating ways for students to put them into action with junior versions of real-world

experience and exposure before sending students to their full-time externship.

Play out of Town

Playing out of town refers to the transfer of learning from the original context it was

learned in to a different setting where the knowledge can be applied.

Perkins (2009) describes playing out of town as,

“…Applying the games we learn and the bits and pieces of those games not just in their

original contexts, but elsewhere, in some other setting where they might be helpful”. (p.


Naturally, humans tend to learn surface characteristics of a topic rather than the underlying

principle. Unfortunately, teachers all over the world mistakenly assume that the concepts they

are teaching will eventually transfer over to other contexts. Transfer of knowledge is

unsuccessful when the initial context of learning contained little reflective thought or the initial

learning context failed to involve enough time and variety (Perkins, 2009). Transfer of

knowledge to different contexts is a difficult process and certain conditions facilitate transfer

more easily than others. The key ingredient to successfully playing out of town is educators that

make the effort. Perkins (2009) describes two successful aspects of knowledge transfer, “high

road transfer” and “low road transfer” (pg. 120). High road transfer happens when students make

conceptual connections by learning thoughtfully. High road transfer is more likely when the

learner thinks reflectively about the topic at hand and seeks possible connections. Low road

transfer is a “reflective reaction” to the superficial characteristics of a situation (Perkins, 2009, p.

Seven Principles 7

120). It occurs when the current learning situation reminds the learner of a previous situation

they have previously encountered. It is highly dependent on the learner’s familiarity of the

previous situation in the original context and their ability to recognize the pattern of similarities.

Perkins defines four ways educators can facilitate playing out of town. First, educators should

apply theory and then offer examples throughout the lesson. Second, students should design a

project rather than write a paper. Third, students have a choice in the design of their projects and

must be encouraged to create something meaningful to them personally. Lastly, educators offer

extensive communicative feedback periodically throughout the entire learning process (Perkins,

2009, p. 124). Ultimately, playing out of town means teaching the whole game to begin with.

Educators must offer lessons of a wide scope of understandings that apply to many areas of life.

This will help students transfer knowledge to another context. Really, the entire point of

education is to prepare students with skills and knowledge to use outside of the classroom.

Perkins summarizes it best, “playing out of town promotes a vision of how education can speak

more broadly and powerfully to learner’s lives” (Perkins, 2009, p. 130).

While taking the Anatomy and Physiology course at the Oregon Institute of Technology, a

student failed to recognize a typically easy muscle group on the cadaver. There was a disconnect

in the transfer of knowledge from what she had read in her text book to the actual application on

the cadaver. The best way for students to transfer knowledge to different contexts is by content

being learned in an active way. Educators can make the most of understanding by offering a

wide scope of facets for the learner to make connections to.

Uncover the Hidden Game

Seven Principles 8

Hidden games are present within the whole game of a topic. There are aspects to everything

that people learn in and out of the classroom that have perspectives, dimensions, and layers that

are not obvious on the surface (Perkins, 2009). When students have a complete grasp on a topic,

including the hidden layers and perspectives that are not always apparent, it can lead to greater

understanding and performance. Sometimes, the hidden aspects of the game are missed because

of neglect due to the preoccupation of teaching, learning, getting through assignments, and

routines. Educators must recognize and find hidden games within the whole game they are

teaching. Hidden games should be taught just as whole games, by creating a simpler, junior

version in order to help students understand it. An example of how an educator could help

students recognize hidden games would be to develop an experience where students grasp a

concept then face adverse circumstances that breaks down their misconceptions of the concept.

Perkins (2009) describes ways areas games can be hidden: simplicity, common sense, “good

enough”, implicit, and assumptions of readiness (p. 156).

The same scenario discussed above within the Work on the Hard Parts section of this paper

is also an example of the hidden games associated within ultrasound that the student was

unaware of. The professors in this scenario failed to uncover the tacit hidden games that they

assumed the student would implicitly understand. Hidden games can be found within casual

reasoning and the underlying presumptions people have about things. In this scenario, the student

had misconceptions about what the field of ultrasound entailed and it wasn’t uncovered until she

was given the experience. The educators should have offered junior versions of the game early

on to expose and deconstruct misconceptions the student had. Hidden games should be

accessible to learners, ultimately empowering them and deepening their understanding of the

whole game.
Seven Principles 9

Learn from the Team

In order for learners to thrive in the whole game, they must be exposed to patterns of

endeavors and social engagement. Participation structures are how roles and responsibilities are

organized in activities (Perkins, 2009). Rich participation structures can serve the whole game.

Learning from a team supports the other principles of learning that are discussed in Perkins’

(2009) book Making Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching Can Transform

Education. As it relates to playing the whole game, new learners to a concept or activity seldom

can play the whole game alone. The social interactions and responsibility in the roles of a team

generate motivation which makes the game worth playing. Learning from the team benefits

working on the hard parts because participants can learn from one another through direct

coaching, counseling, and observations. Discussion within groups typically focuses on the

hidden game and strategy for the hidden games. Working with other people with different

problem-solving approaches promotes a wide scope of understanding that helps with easy

transfer of knowledge between different contexts. Within participation structures, participants

will be propelled to manage their own learning process and understanding.

A group project within a Master’s in Education class left a student very frustrated with group

learning. The project had set roles but was poorly organized with not enough people to

adequately fill the roles of involvement and divvy out the responsibility equally. Overall, the

student was left feeling like she did not understand as much about the topic as she would have

liked and that she spent countless hours forming her part of the project, while other students

within the group contributed very little. In this case, learning from the team requires organization

of roles and responsibility for learning. Social interactions and responsibilities must be of the
Seven Principles 10

nature that make the game worth playing for all the students. When group projects are

mismanaged, the student may struggle to find intrinsic motivation to invest in the understanding

of the topic.

Learn the Game of Learning

The final principle in Perkins’ (2009) book describes the importance of one being a

proactive learner who seeks to play the whole game throughout their life. He describes the

importance of students being allowed in the “Driver’s Seat” of playing the whole game (Perkins,

2009, p. 195). When educators create and organize the learner’s experience without allowing

them to be in the driver’s seat, they prevent them from playing the whole game. Educators

should encourage students to be proactive learners. The whole game of learning is as much about

attitude as it is about skill. Please see the diagram below that describes characteristics of a

proactive learner in respect to the principles of playing the whole game.

Work on the
Play the Whole Play out of Learn from the Hard Parts
Game Town Team
•Student seeks
•Student is self- •Student seeks •Student asks, out the areas
managed & to find "Who can I that need
seeks a sense different learn from?" work and finds
of the whole contexts to Where can I ways to
game experience the look for a practice/deco
topic in mentor?" nstruct them
Learn the
Make the Game of Uncover the
Game Worth Learning Hidden Games
Playing •Student is •Students don't
•Students make aware of their wait for the
connections to learning teacher to
their own practice and reveal the
interests to organize hidden games,
promote learning to they search for
intrisic tranfer to them
motivation different
Seven Principles 11

A student as a high schooler was never asked to be proactive in her learning. She did well

academically but was only a surface learner and fell into patterns of shallow learning. When she

began college, she was unable to understand why her grades were falling and why college was so

much more difficult. Unfortunately, she had not learned how to be a proactive learner and play

the whole game of learning. This student’s story is similar to many high school students

transitioning into college. Educators should encourage students to make choices about their

learning and support self-management. Students must be allowed to be in the driver’s seat of

their learning to play the whole game.

Reflections and Connections

As the lead sonographer at my work place, we often discuss sonographers that have, what

we call, the “X” factor. These sonographers play the whole game of ultrasound. They are

intrinsically motivated, are constantly striving to uncover the hidden games, learn from the team,

play out of town, and are forever, proactive learners. Unfortunately, sonographers with the “X”

factor are very hard to come by. A lot of sonographers who are in the workforce fail to play the

whole game and are missing crucial principles.

The seven principles discussed by Perkins have put into words the type of educator I

strive to be and the type of student success stories I desire to be a part of. I would love to hear

years down the road that the students from my ultrasound program had the “X” factor that

physicians, and most importantly, patients so desperately need.

Perkins (2009) described it best,

Seven Principles 12

“The reality is, when we step off the platform with degrees in hand, most of what we

need to learn is ahead of us”. (p. 211)

There is much I need to learn about teaching the whole game. Understanding the different

principles of the whole game is a start, but I still have a lot to learn to put it all into action.
Seven Principles 13


Perkins, D. N., & ebrary, I. (2009). Making learning whole : how seven principles of teaching

can transform education. San Francisco, Calif: Jossey-Bass.