Deeper Learning

In a previous post, we discussed what it means to be less student-centered and, instead, to hold the teacher, the student, and the subject in proper balance. This week, we’re going to dive deeper into the student side of this triangle.

As a refresher, you can read the full post here, but this is what we said about the student side:

What does it look like when the student node is in proper balance?The student is in an environment that affords them a level of ownership over their learning, as well as opportunity to apply their knowledge, and develop intra- and inter-personal skills.

It turns out that what we are describing here is essentially the components of Deeper Learning.

Whoa, that sounds good. What is Deeper Learning?

If you’ve never heard of Deeper Learning (or at least never heard of it as a specific, formal concept), you can probably take a guess at its meaning. It sounds pretty good, right? I definitely want my students to learn concepts deeply — I’m not too thrilled about them learning things superficially and then just forgetting it all!

Deeper Learning, as defined by the National Research Council Panel in 2012, is:

“…the process through which an individual becomes capable of taking what was learned in one situation and applying it to new situations.”

Ok, that makes sense. If you really learn something deeply, you should be able to apply that learning in a variety of situations.

It also turns out that there are some specific strategies for promoting Deep Learning. However, many of these strategies aren’t easy to implement overnight. In some cases, they will require changes in curriculum and school culture. That’s a lot to cover in one blog post and a lot for you to take on at the end of the school year.

Practical Takeaways

Since you can’t just snap your fingers and achieve Deeper Learning, here are three key practical takeaways to remember in your own classroom:

  1. Communication and Collaboration
    Learning to communicate ideas and work with peers is an important component of deeper learning. You can promote these skills with group projects, and assessments wherein students have to show and defend their work, like a portfolio review.
    You can also support these skills by creating a classroom environment that feels very personal. When students feel connected to one another and feel a sense of trust, they will more easily develop these skills.
  2. Critical Thinking
    Being able to think critically and figure things out is an important component of deeper learning as well. You can help promote this by giving students space to approach a problem and figure it out, letting them teach learned concepts to someone else, or giving students bigger, longer-term projects to tackle.
  3. Reflection
    Finally, students are more easily able to transfer knowledge from one situation to another when they are aware of their own learning process. Try providing students the opportunity to reflect on their own learning or give them a chance to set their own goals and persist in reaching them.

As we continue to advocate for learning environments that honor the teacher, the student, and the subject in equal measure, these deeper learning takeaways help maintain the balance.

To learn more about the NRC’s findings and read the full study written by American Institutes for Research and funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, go here.

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