LfU in the UAE

In what ways would you teach an LfU-based activity to explore a concept in math or science? Draw on LfU and My World scholarship to support your pedagogical directions. Given its social and cognitive affordances, extend the discussion by describing how the activity and roles of the teacher and students are aligned with LfU principles.


Learning-for-Use (LfU) activities offer students a deep and robust conceptual understanding of the topic at hand (pg. 355).

The model is based on four principles that are shared by many contemporary theories of learning:

  1. Learning takes place through the construction and modification of knowledge structures.
  1. Knowledge construction is a goal-directed process that is guided by a combination of conscious and unconscious understanding goals.
  1. The circumstances in which knowledge is constructed and subsequently used determine its accessibility for future use.
  1. Knowledge must be constructed in a form that supports use before it can be applied

Edelson (2001) describes four principles of the LfU model on page 357:

  1. Learning takes place incrementally and constructively.
  2. Knowledge expands both consciously and unconsciously.
  3. Content must be taught in the right context, so that the knowledge can be retrieved later in the future during a similar context.
  4. Knowledge learned must be used right away so that when such knowledge is needed in a new situation in the future, it can be used to solve problems.

The three pillars of the LfU model are described as:

  1. Motivation – students need motivation to learn.  Motivation is created when students perform an activity that highlights voids or gaps that might be present in their current knowledge, and the need to fill these voids.
  2. Knowledge Construction – through scaffolding activities, knowledge is processed to fill the voids created by the motivation activity in step 1.
  3. Knowledge Refinement – in this final step the knowledge learned is used in the correct context, so that it is readily available for future retrieval.


Here in the United Arab Emirates using GIS is a rather new phenomenon. Never the less as Math and Science teachers we are taking baby steps to include these activities in our classrooms with the limited technology that we posses.  Since my students live in a remote area, their geographical knowledge is limited.  I often try to motivate my students even thought this can be hard when almost half of them with get married after graduation from high school and not pursue university.  Nevertheless, I remind them that the world is a large place that is fascinating and ready to be discovered, this at times is enough motivation to get students going.

One activity that is possible is taking a look at the houses in the community (since most times many family live on compounds together) and guessing the area of the compound.  We can get them look at GIS images and physically calculate the square footage of their houses or even other buildings such as our school.

This puts the information into context.  We can then expand and take a look at iconic building in the UAE such as Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and the man-made Palm Jumairah and compare their square footage to their homes.

We can then take time to discuss and reflect on what we have learned.  In this way students can be engaged in what they are learning because it is relevant to their lives and the teacher can act as a facilitator, guiding them in whatever manner that they need.


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.


  1. Thank you, Haneefa, for your personal response.

    Your perspective on using the student’s local environment to participate in place-based learning is aligned with much of my own thinking this past week. Focusing on the students’ immediate environment and helping them grow in their understanding of the physical space that they are situated {mathematically, geographically, or ecologically} are all relevant purposes for learning and will prepare them for exploring more distant spaces when required.

    I personally struggled with the usability of the software presented this past week, but realize that focusing on the principals that underlie LfU, as you outlined well in your post, is what is critical in our learning as educators, not necessarily the implementation of a specific software.

    All the best as you grow and learn with your students!

    1. Hello Jessica,
      Thank you for your comments. Since technology is so sparse at our school, I usually try and focus on the best way possible to apply whatever principals we are learning in class. At times, it can be so challenging and frustrating but it helps to know that I am not the only educator in this class that feels the way I do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *