The Essence of Deeper Learning

This concept has been kicking around in my mind for many months now (during which time it has appeared in this blog). I think I am finally getting to the essence of how I think about it.

Many scholars and organizations have proposed variations on deeper learning; each variation is accompanied by suggestions for describing the nature of teaching that promotes deeper learning. Each of these has the same nuances that characterize the different definition for deeper learning, but there are some common elements.  In general, Teaching for Deeper Learning:

  • Emphasizes complex problem solving which requires learners to apply what they have learned in unfamiliar situations;
  • Finds students framing complex problems and solving them (or attempting to solve them) rather than only learning about the problems;
  • Thinking critically, creatively, and practically about the complex problems and the potential solutions;
  • Presents declarative knowledge so that it is connected by themes and concepts rather than as isolated facts;
  • Finds students assessing their own learning and actively identifying and resolving gaps in their knowledge;
  • Provided opportunities for students to become more skilled collaborators.

Teaching for Deeper Learning is different from instruction in several important ways. It facilitates students to engage with new ideas and problems, so they build knowledge and meaning rather than simply transferring information. As a result, students encounter problems is a transdisciplinary manner. One criticism for curriculum in the Standard Model of Education is that it reflects a sample of the declarative knowledge experts in the field know about rather than the strategies they actually use when solving problems. These problems allow students find more connections to the curriculum when they are studying in this way and the curriculum is perceived as being more relevant; thus, teachers increase situational interest and motivation. This is not possible when information is taught as isolated facts.