About Nina


Thanks for visiting my blog! This page has information about my teaching dispositions and philosophy, and also serves as my professional portfolio as a learning designer.  My current resume is available here: NCSresume2022 


I am very passionate about providing good quality education for every student, so I help instructors and teachers around the world to design better learning experiences for their students. One of the opportunities I am very excited about, is supporting a school in South Africa to make their pre-K very child-centered. Embedding Social-emotional learning (SEL) to all learning experience design empowers 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 experiences, 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 designing learner-centered experiences.  

In addition to pedagogical 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 February 2023 I had graduated 625 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! So cool!

My other blog at Nina’s Notes is a little more academic and focuses on designing student-centered and learning-centered environments discussing how students’ intrinsic motivation to learn improves their academic performance. This blog Notes from Nina 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, engaging teachers in advanced learning design. In 21st Century we can’t afford to waste learning 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 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 design increases learner engagement in deep learning. Acquiring information is just the first step in learning proces, therefore learning experience design must focus on supporting students to 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 contemporary education. Designing great learning experiences means expecting/allowing students to take a significant role in their own learning process and embedding the use of metacognitive skills to all learning experiences.
  • Constructive practice: focus on supporting every students’ individual learning process. Design learning opportunities instead of products of learning by offering choices and ongoing informal and informative feedback. It means refocusing education from instruction to learning, and emphasizing individual learning process over standard delivery.

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

Nina’s recent NCS LearningCertificates from Friday Institute and Linked In. 



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.


  1. Choosing to Teach: NotesFromNina | preclectic.com - January 18, 2014

    […] 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 […]

  2. Paradigm – loose ends, tidy thinking Part 1 | Solution Support - December 22, 2014

    […] to Nina C Smith ( https://notesfromnina.wordpress.com/about/ ) for her gentle comment on my recent […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: