Blog #2 David Perkins. Making Learning Whole

Who is David Perkins?


David Perkins was a professor at Harvard University and co-director with Howard Gardner of the “Harvard Project Zero”, a research group that worked in the field of education, which is why Perkins is recognized worldwide.

He is the author of numerous publications, such as The Eureka effect, King Arthurs round table, Future wise, Making learning whole (Pforzheimer, 2017).

David Perkins summarizes years of observations, reflections, and research in 7 teaching principles. But these principles can not only be applied to teaching, but they can be applied to any discipline. For Perkins, these principles are key to achieving full learning. He uses these seven principles to change the game of education.

David Perkins grew up playing baseball, and we can tell that because throughout the book he provides many examples and explains many concepts from baseball.

Finally, he started studying to become a mathematician, but gradually he was interested in the learning process.


These seven principles of whole game learning integrate the most important elements of learning and developmental science into a practical guide for developing broader and deeper competencies.

whole game

During the course of these last two weeks we have touched on the first four concepts, which are:

  • Play the whole game: With this principle, Perkins introduces us to his holistic vision of learning and education.
  • Make the game worth playing: In this principle, Perkins talks about motivation and understanding.
  • Work on the hard parts: Perkins tells us that although the holistic approach is the best, we also have to stop to work on the difficult parts. As teachers, we need to have a theory of difficulty. Know where and what will be the points of conflict, and when they occur, know how to handle them.
  • Play out of town: In this principle, Perkins teaches us about the transfer. The students are taught so that they know how to handle it in another place and time.

Perkins gives us many tips on how to integrate these principles in a traditional or not so traditional educational environment. As well as to go “accumulating” the 7 principles, we have to follow a chronological order of the principles. That is to say, we can start with a version for beginners and incorporate aspects. It is also important to work on the difficult parts applying the principles until reaching a teaching that achieves a full learning.


David Perkins uses The Game and Playing the Game to describe education and how it should be taught and learned.

But before delving into what is “playing the whole game”, we will say that it is NOT:


  • It’s never just about the contents.
  • It is never just a routine.
  • It’s never just about solving problems. It is also about discovering the problems
  • It is not just correct answers. It is about justifying and explaining the answer.
  • It is not devoid of emotions.
  • It does not occur in isolation. It requires a method, a community, and an action plan.

Perkins says that currently in most schools there are two problems:

  1. We treat the elements in isolation. It is not about the general context, that is, they are divided into several sections, which is why we never reach the whole game.

Perkins tells us that if this happens, the content, information, and knowledge lose their purpose. The student loses interest because it is so synthesized that the whole idea is not appreciated, and therefore, it loses its meaning. The transfer of knowledge is so isolated that students are not able to connect knowledge with other situations or different contexts.

  1. At school we do not experiment, we do not go deep. We see everything from afar.

Perkins tells us that this lack of experimentation affects the students’ knowledge and their relationship with the curriculum. It is essential that student students experiment in several areas so that they know their interests and strengths. Because if not, how will they know if they like something if they do not experiment?


Perkins tells us that the whole game involves:

  • Problem-solving
  • The explanation
  • The argumentation
  • The collection of evidence
  • A strategy
  • A skill
  • An art

With regard to the results of the whole game, David Perkins tells us that something is often created:

  • A solution
  • An image
  • A story
  • An essay
  • A model


In short, Perkins tells us that: IT’S MORE VALUABLE DOING THAN KNOWING. Since the obsession from the curriculum to give the students all the content, it causes that the sense of how and why to be lost.


David Perkins states that both are directly related. Emotions affect motivation because if the student is not connected to the material, there will be a lack of motivation and wanting to learn. (Perkins, 2009).

Affect and motivation are expressed through emotions. “Affect influences behavior and actions when connected to learning it often influences a student’s motivation and teachers” (EDU 510: Unit 4, presentation, slide 3, 2018). It is important to build an emotional student-teacher relationship, taking into account the interests of the students, and we must make them feel protagonists in the teaching process. In this way, we will increase their motivation.


Below is a video where David Perkins offers his thoughts on what makes the content of education means to students.


When I started reading the book, I was struck by the fact that he talked about the game as an educational tool, which I consider that he uses it as a metaphor. Since he takes the game as a complete representation of a situation or real context to introduce it to learning, instead of, as how many people see it, as a playful element.

As teachers, we must establish connections between the interests of students and the curriculum, and apply them to real life. Learning that occurs in the classroom should be applied to real world. We must instill in our students the love of learning, developing aspects of curiosity and persistence. (Perkins, 2009, p.31)



EDUC 510: The Cognitive Science of Teaching and Learning Unit 2 Presentation. (n.d.).(slide 3) Retrieved April 2018.

Perkins, D. N., & ebrary, I. (2009). Making Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching Can Transform Education. San Francisco, Calif: Jossey-Bass.

Pforzheimer, C. (2017). Learning and teaching program, technology, innovation and education program. Harvard, graduate school of education. Retrieved from

The future of learning special: worthy curriculum-going big, with David Perkins. (2015). Clarkston community schools. Retrieved from

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