Examining Deep Learning

In a MindShift blog, Beyond Knowing Facts, How Do We Get to a Deeper Level of Learning? , I found this list of competencies for identifying deep learning.

-mastering content

-critical thinking

-effective written and oral communication

-collaboration

-learning how to learn

-developing academic mindsets

You can find a video clip defining deep learning and information about a deep learning MOOC here.

The blog quotes Rob Riordan, the co-founder of High Tech High:

“The great project for education everywhere is to reach all students and to discover that all students are capable of deeper learning. The question then becomes, how do we find ways to offer access to all learners and in ways that all can shine? That means letting students get their hands on materials to build things, giving them a real question or problem that’s worth pursuing and making them feel that they are engaged in authentic, valuable work.”

How many of the elements for deep learning do you see in these learning activity descriptions?

Fifth-graders at an elementary school in Michigan recently showcased battery-powered cars for parents and other students as part of the culmination of a three-month project-based lesson. Students used math, science and language arts throughout the lesson, in which they created a fictional engineering company, designed a battery-powered car and then pitched their prototypes to a fictional toy company. “They learn to work together and apply what they learned in the classroom to real-world situations,” teacher Judith Meier said. (MLive.com)

More than a hundred senior students from Boyle Heights, CA were asked what stories and images would communicate “In Our Village”  (a worldwide project). What does daily life in Boyle Heights look, feel, and sound like? Who are its people, where do they come from, what do they do for work, what brings them joy? From where do residents draw their sense of community and cultural pride? What makes Boyle Heights unique?

The students, spread across eight classes, dug in. “With a strong sense of community and cultural pride, and the conviction to leave a written legacy, seniors started their maiden voyage into the unknown world of publishing,” three teachers wrote in their preface to the book. “In small groups they took ownership of specific topics and began exploring, researching, drafting, and photographing their individual chapters.”

 The students learned—and brandished—perseverance. Writing each chapter required multiple drafts, with six students acting as peer editors. Another team of students took the photographs, all in one month. A third group took responsibility for the book’s layout.  The students completed their 100-page book in seven months.

Along the way, they discovered depth in their community and themselves.

 Deep learning is increased as students develop a positive academic mindset, consisting of four key beliefs highlighted in the research of Carol Dweck:

I can change my intelligence and abilities through effort

I can succeed

I belong in this learning community

This work has value and purpose for me

Dweck also states that teachers with a positive academic mindset:

…. collaborate with their colleagues and instructional leaders, rather than shut their classroom doors and fly solo. They strive to strengthen their own practice, rather than blame others. They truly believe that all students can learn and succeed—and show it.

 Whether the focus is Common Core, 21st Century Skills, or College and Career Ready, deep learning should be at the core of teacher planning. Therefore, deep learning needs to equally be the core of teacher professional development and professional learning communities. Instructional leaders need to consider how teachers extend their mastery of content, think critically, build communication and collaboration skills and develop academic mindsets.

As a school leader, how are you promoting deep learning for teachers and students?

What are the examples of deep student learning your staff would point to as evidence?

How are you structuring PLC practices around deep leaning?

What deep learning are you engaged in?

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Steve Barkley

For the past 30 years, Steve has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education, and colleges and universities nationally and internationally, facilitating the changes necessary for them to reach students and successfully prepare them for the 21st century. Read more…

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