About Nina


Thanks for visiting my blog! This page has information about my teaching dispositions and philosophy, and also serves as my professional portfolio. My current resume is available here.

Nina at work

I am very passionate about providing good quality education for every student, so I help instructors and teachers around the world to thrive in their profession and make learning more meaningful for students. I am very excited about the opportunity to support a school in South Africa to make their pre-K very child-centered. Using SEL to support students’ deep and lifelong learning process is the main key for successful teaching and empowering students to learn on their own! 

I earned my M.Ed. degree in learning sciences and teaching credentials from the University of Jyvaskyla, Finland, then worked internationally, and am currently living and working in the U.S., where I earned my Doctorate in Education in 2017. My dissertation research about Learner agency was a phenomenographic inquiry into students’ perceptions of their learning, resulting with a realization that sometimes learner agency can take a negative turn. In the case of detachment driving the engagement, students may decide to use surface strategies and just aim for passing the class or test. This obviously is not the ideal situation, and can be mitigated by engaging in learner-centered educational approach.  

In addition to pedagogical and andragogical consulting, I mentor instructors, teachers, and trainers pursuing their M.Ed. degrees in Instructional Design, Learning & Technology, and Curriculum & Instruction at Western Governors University.  Mentoring consists working directly with every student to support them in their own learning process, but also ensuring the mastery of the content in their academic programs, as well as communicating university policies and procedures. As of June 30, 2020 I had graduated exactly 400 M. Ed. students, after guiding them through their coursework in instructional design, research studies, measurement and evaluation studies, and learning & tech, and finally helping them to successfully finish their capstone research project – which often is their favorite part of their learning experience!

My blog, talks, and writings at Nina’s Notes and ninacsmith.com are about deep learning and focus on building student-centered and learning-centered environments disussing how students’ intrinsic motivation to learn improves their academic performance. This wordpress blog discusses SEL and learning as a process vs. product, among other learner agency related topics. The holistic view of learning considers learning to be an essenatial part of our everyday lives. The holistic view of teaching extends instruction beyond content presentation. In 21st Century we can’t afford to waste instructional time in busywork!

In my book “Choosing How to Teach & Teaching How to Choose: Using the 3Cs to Improve Learning” I am sharing the native Finnish know-how of education, as well as my international teaching experiences. As you probably know, Finland has shown its educational success  in OECD’s longitudinal research called PISA and keeps on having a strong emphasis on equitable access to education. Awesome! Here is a link to Finnish education system on the Finnish National Agency for Education website.

The concrete teaching experience with preK-12 and higher education, in addition to my studies in education and psychology, are giving depth to my 3C-model of effective education, which has two frameworks for cognitive, constructive and cooperative learning and teaching.  The 3C- framework for IDEAL learning is for instructors in higher education, and the 3C-framework for Effective Learning is for K-12 teachers.

Both frameworks focus on deep learning, and are based on the same 3C-model:

  • Cooperation: This is the foundation of successful learning (online or in class)! Emphasizing cooperation and learner/learning-centered approaches increases learner engagement in deep learning. Content presentation is just the beginning, students deepen their understanding while communicating with the instructor and each other.
  • Cognitive approach: students’ thinking needs to change, not just their behavior. Learner agency is an important part of education. Creating supportive learning environments by  and expecting/allowing students to take a significant role in their own learning and embedding metacognitive skills to all learnign experiences.
  • Constructive practice: focus on learning process instead of products of learning by offering choices and onlgoing informal and informative feedback. Refocusing education from instruction to learning, and emphasizing and individual learning process over cookie-cutter teaching.

As you see, 3Cs is a model any instructor or teacher can choose to use in any educational setting regardless the curriculum they are following. We need to know how learning happens, so that we can enhance it in the classrooms. In other words, rather than assuming that it is a teacher’s job to impart wisdom to students who will somehow magically absorb it, helping students to build their knowledge makes more sense. Working with students’ need to know makes learning and teaching much more meaningful!

I can help you make a difference with your students.

Even if your school or college is not focusing on learner agency and student centered learning practices, there are many things you can do in your classroom to improve learning outcomes. My email is NotesFromNina at gmail dot com, and I would love to help!



My other blog is available at:


My dissertation is available here and also on Northeastern University official repository:

Smith, N. C. (2018). Students’ Perceptions of Learner Agency: A Phenomenographic Inquiry into the Lived Learning Experiences of High School Students (Doctoral dissertation, Northeastern University). https://repository.library.northeastern.edu/files/neu:m044hv66f/fulltext.pdf



4 Responses to “About Nina”

  1. Raunak August 14, 2012 at 9:35 am #

    Hi Nina..I’ve studied in Finland as well 🙂 good to come across your blog.

  2. Miles O'Shea April 20, 2021 at 9:38 am #

    I’ve enjoyed reading through many of your posts. Thanks for advancing the much-needed discussion about how to improve education.


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    […] In my search for enlightening resources about designing meaningful learning I was fortunate to find Nina Smith‘s blog, NotesFromNina. In particular, I found Nina’s presentation, Meaningful Learning […]

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