Deeper Learning: Things you can do
“Deeper Learning” is a new/old approach to teaching. Unbeknownst to me I have been a Deeper Learning teacher since my first steps into the classroom as a volunteer teaching advanced reading. I stepped into the center of the Deeper Learning world when I took a day-long course on Ron Berger’s concept of ‘expeditionary learning’ (and went on to devour his book An Ethic of Excellence). But only recently did I learn that there is a formal movement in education called Deeper Learning.
In this month’s issue I’ll discuss some core aspects of Deeper Learning, and in the process, outline a few games and projects to keep your classroom energized and collaborative.
Deeper Learning stresses:
- Personalized learning, in which a portion of each student’s day or week is devoted to research, compilation, and presentation of ideas of personal interest.
- Project-based learning, a common theme in this newsletter, promoting independent discovery, inter-disciplinary and multimedia thinking, collaboration, and presentation skills.
- Work-based learning, in which students get to learn and work with professionals in the field.
Here are a couple of Deeper Learning strategies in action.
Rigorous Student Assessment from Envision Education in San Francisco,
Students assemble a portfolio of their best work, which they must present to an audience of educators, peers, and community members. As students prepare their portfolios and receive feedback from teachers, they hone not only their critical thinking skills, but also their communication skills. Seniors also create a “college success portfolio.”
Learning By Doing from Expeditionary Learning,
Students design their own projects, and then go on extended expeditions outside the classroom to work in their communities, covering topics as diverse as ecology, zoning issues, and voting rights. Students work alone and in groups, conducting original research, analyzing data, and presenting their findings to their class. Along the way, students solicit feedback from peers and instructors, and make revisions. Exhibition Night is a very popular event, in which students display and present their work to the whole school community.
This kind of learning inspires higher level critical thinking, better developed social skills through collaboration and presentation, and more self-directed and creative individuals.
Here is a simpler activity to bring Deeper Learning concepts to your classroom:
“Zoom” is a classic classroom cooperative game. Simply form students into a circle and give each a unique picture of an object, animal, person, etc. One student begins a story based on the picture they have. The next student continues the story, incorporating their picture, and so on. This is good, but it can be significantly improved by wrapping it into your curriculum.
In a literature class, to introduce a novel or play before reading it, you create a collection of images and text statements from the novel. Pass them out in order of appearance in the novel and have students create a story, ala zoom. Record the story with a sound recorder. When you have completed reading the novel/play, use the collection of images again to assess student understanding. Again, record the story. Listen to, and compare the 2 recordings in class. Besides helping students assess their understanding, the sound recording gives students very helpful feedback on their public speaking.
In a history class, use images and text derived from the next historical unit you will study. In a science class you could use this to introduce a unit on evolution or any topic with a cascading series of events (say, oxygenation of blood or ecological transformations). In math, your images could show all the steps in solving an equation. In art or art history you could cover historical periods in art, or national differences in art forms, or the development of an artist’s ouevre.
Rich sites; provocative articles:
Here are a couple of websites devoted to Deeper Learning:
Their tag line: Think, Learn, Innovate. In their ‘resources’ pages they provide a wide range of Deeper Learning links, including ProD resources.
Featured last month, now go back and look at the ‘slideshare’ at the bottom of the text. There are some remarkable slides in this presentation by Steve Wheeler.
If you’re planning a visit to Washington, DC, don’t hesitate to contact me about our great museums and ways to explore them.
Wishing you, your friends and loved ones, and your school a meaningful Thanksgiving.