Learning For Use (LfU) Framework

With an increasing trend of educators needing to be prepared to teach 21 Century skills like inquiry, communication, and critical thinking, it is difficult to continue to create schooling methods based on lecture styles. Instead, us educators need learning models that encourage deep understanding and learning in our students, as well as being able to teach skills that can be applied to many situations rather than memorization of content. Daniel C. Edelson has proposed a model of learning, Learning for Use (LfU) in 2001, and this simple model easily fits the bill of applying learning to achieve 21 Century skills in our students. What is great about LfU is that it can be applied to a variety of situations as well.

LfU is designed as a model for learning, and if you’re familiar with Piaget’s “The Learning Cycle”, then LfU will sound similar, except that it focuses on the act performed by the student in each section, rather than the cognitive process that the student is undergoing.

LfU is a generalized theory of learning that can be applied to specific situations or content, and is defined by three main sections:

  1. Motivation

  2. Knowledge Construction

  3. Knowledge Refinement

Each section is built into two subsections that satisfy the requirements of each step.

  1. Motivation: Students experiencing the need for new knowledge

In the first stage, students experience the hunger, the need, for understanding and constructing new knowledge. They either Experience a demand for new knowledge by facing a problem they do not know how to solve, or they experience curiosity about a situation that they may want to learn about. Motivation is different than traditional conceptions of emotional motivation, in that this first stage assumes that the learner is already motivated to learn; in essence, LfU is not concerned with emotional motivation for learning.

2. Knowledge Construction: Building new knowledge structures

Based on the concepts of constructivism, LfU next stages that students should observe and have direct experience with situations that will allow them to develop new knowledge through experience, or receive communication from others, experts, or structures that allows students to build new knowledge based on this communication.

3. Refine Knowledge: Organize and connect knowledge structures

Lastly, after experiencing first hand and developing new knowledge structures, students are finally given the change to apply and reflect upon their newfound knowledge structures in order to reorganize their cognitive schema’s, or to apply their knowledge in meaningful and authentic ways.

Motivate, construct, and refine are the backbones of the LfU model of learning. Given students a reason to learn, the ability to construct their own knowledge through experience, and the ability to apply their knowledge, and according to Edelson, as well as many other scholars in the educational fields, you will have created an excellent opportunity for students to develop deep knowledge and understanding of a concept.


Edelson, D.C. (2001). Learning-for-use: A framework for the design of technology-supported inquiry activities. Journal of Research in Science Teaching,38(3), 355-385. http://ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/login?url=http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1002/1098-2736(200103)38:3<355::aid-tea1010>3.0.CO;2-M