Deeper Learning Principles

More than 15 years ago, Collen Carmean and Jeremy Haefner (2002), scholars from the western United States, suggested that curriculum and instruction in the 21st century will be characterized by five properties that they refer to as deeper learning principles that appear to be associated with students who more clearly understand the curriculum and who are more able to transfer the skills and knowledge they learn to different situations. According to Carmean and Haefner, deeper learning occurs when learner tasks are

  • social;
  • active;
  • contextual;
  • engaging;
  • student-centered.

Carmean and Haefner define each of these principles as well. Social learning occurs when students and teachers interact, and feedback is given in a timely manner. Active learning occurs when the problems arise from real-world situations and are solved through effort by the learner. Learning is contextual when it builds upon students’ prior knowledge and experiences and includes demonstration of new understanding. Learning is engaging when it respects differences, arises from students’ curiosity, and is challenging but not threatening. Student-centered learning includes time for reflection, and encourages students to think about their thinking and to take an active role in planning their learning. To align classroom with these principles, educators must adopt new practices of preparing and planning curriculum and instruction. Educator tasks will be dynamic and will recognize new roles for technology in classrooms.


Carmean, Colleen, and Jeremy Haefner. 2002. “Mind over Matter: Transforming Course Management Systems into Effective Learning Environments.” EDUCAUSE Review 46(6): 26-34.