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Deeper Learning

Deeper Learning

Author: Trisha Fyfe

In this lesson students will connect constructivism and PBL to Deeper Learning

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Source: Image of light bulb, Public Domain,

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Welcome to a tutorial on Deeper Learning. In this tutorial, we will discuss the questions, what is deeper learning? Why should we use deeper learning in our classrooms? And how is deeper learning connected to blended learning, problem based learning, and constructivist based learning?

So let's start with what exactly is deeper learning. Deeper learning is students using skills and knowledge to prepare for real life. According to the Hewlett Foundation, they are also mastering core academic content while learning how to think critically, collaborate, communicate effectively, direct their own learning, and believe in themselves. Students focus on college, career, and life skills within deeper learning. So students use all of these skills and this knowledge to prepare themselves for real life.

Why should we use deeper learning? Well, students in the US are performing behind international peers and there's data to support this. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD's, mission is to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people all around the world.

The Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, evaluates education system worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students across the world. In 2012, the US had a mean score of 481. Over 30 countries scored higher than this. The highest scoring country was China who scored 613. And this data comes from the OECD's website.

So you can see that there is proven data here based on OECD and PISA that US students do fall short in some areas. Deeper learning is just one area that we, as teachers, can help students gain some ground here. We can help students really, truly understand concepts, so that, hopefully, the mean scores will go up, as well as their true understanding of content.

We also want to make sure that students are able to apply these ideas in their learnings to real-world scenarios. Deeper learning helps prepare students for their future.

According to OECD, successful countries have a few traits. They are quick to adapt, slow to resist, and open to change. And implementing some new strategies into the classroom is a way for the US to say that they are open to change within their classrooms. Deeper learning connects to problem based learning and constructivism. Deeper learning is rooted in problem based learning and constructivism.

The students are faced with authentic industry related problems. Students are asked to use inquiry, collaboration, and communication skills and active learning within that deeper learning environment. And these are all skills and traits that we use in problem based learning and constructivism.

Let's look at some examples from deeper learning schools. Concept of Expeditionary Learning comes from And King Middle School, an EL Mentor School, was featured on PBS Newshour. And it's a great video clip. If you go and look this up.

The students in this school were spoken to by a scientist who talked to them about natural energy and ways that natural energy is being depleted. So what can we do to change that? They took a look at learning outside of the classroom and how they could bring the ideas and make changes not in the traditional classroom setting, but by using a deeper learning approach. Their goal was to create a device that captured natural energy and transformed it into something useful for people. And they use a turbine project to do this where students got into groups and created a turbine. And then measured all of the statistics on that.

Another example is Big Picture Learning, or a Over 60 schools in the US participate in Big Picture Learning. And Big Picture Learning really strives to bring deeper learning into all schools in the United States. Their goals are to generate and sustain schools that work in tandem with the real world and the greater community. So helping students make connection between what they're learning and how it will apply for their entire life.

They also help to design innovative learning environments for schools and classrooms. They research and replicate new models for learning and bring those into the classrooms. They train educators to serve as leaders in their schools and communities. So this is a great organization that is trying to bring that deeper learning into our schools.

So how can teachers connect deeper learning, blended learning, constructivism, and problem based learning? Essentially, students are asked to engage actively in authentic, industry specific problems where they are asked to problem solve and defend their solutions, very unlike the traditional learning environment.

An example of these, and the connection between all of these ideas and theories, might be students learning about renewable resources and energy. And then being asked to design an eco-friendly house using what they know about renewable energy. They might be asked to consult with home builders, include a cost analysis, state the benefits, use technology, and present their plans.

So here, this is an authentic activity. Students have some choice and voice in where they would like to go with this. It's an industry specific problem, something that they can use in a real-life scenario. And they're asked to problem solve and defend their solutions. By doing this, they'll need to collaborate and communicate with each other and become an active participant in their learning.

Let's reflect on these ideas. What do you think the challenges of implementing deeper learning strategies might be for yourself? Have you observed examples of deeper learning?

Let's review what we learned today. In this tutorial, we discussed deeper learning and what that was. And remember, it's where students use skills and knowledge to prepare for real-life while they master core academic content, think critically, collaborate, communicate effectively, direct their own learning, and believe in themselves. The focus is really on college and career skills as well as life skills. So making sure the students will be able to transfer all of their learning.

Why should we use deeper learning in our classrooms? And it's the reasons I just listed that deeper learning is essential to our classrooms today. We want students to be able to take their learning, connect it, make meaning of it, and transfer it to other scenarios.

How is deeper learning connected to blended learning, PBL, and constructivist based learning? When we use all of these learning strategies, students are faced with authentic, industry specific problems that present problem solving opportunities and ask students to defend their solutions. The idea here is that students are learning the content more deeply by doing all of these things.

Thanks for discussing deeper learning with me today. I hope you're able to apply the ideas that we talked about, as far as deeper learning, into your own classroom.

To dive a little deeper and learn how to apply this information be sure to check out the Additional Resources section associated with this video. This is where you'll find links targeted toward helping you discover more ways to apply this course material.

Notes on "Deeper Learning"


(00:00- 00:17) Introduction/objectives

(00:18- 00:50) What is Deeper Learning?

(00:51- 02:52) Why use Deeper Learning?

(02:53- 04:35) Examples of Deeper Learning

(04:36- 05:47) Connections between theories

(05:48- 05:59) Reflection/application questions

(06:00- 07:31) Review 

Additional Resources

Deeper Learning Network Fact Sheet

This is a downloadable fact sheet outlining the high schools in the deeper learning network and how deeper learning differs from traditional education. The fact sheet includes the what and why of deeper learning. In addition, it illustrates the ways in which schools in the deeper learning network have had an impact on teaching and learning.

Technology-Rich Learning Environments

This report by Jennifer Groff sets the stage for deeper learning and provides international insights into best practices. Included in the report are examples of technology rich schools and their practices. See page three for a useful graphic organizer describing technology-rich learning environments.

21st Century Learning Some Conclusions & Implications from an NRC Report

The National Research Council provides a clear overview of 21st century skills and deeper learning. See slides 15-20 for how to teach for transfer and deeper learning.