Deeper Learning 101

What’s “deeper learning” all about?

A decade ago, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation offered that deeper learning involves six core competencies:
  1. Master core academic content
  2. Think critically and solve complex problems
  3. Work collaboratively
  4. Communicate effectively
  5. Learn how to learn
  6. Develop academic mindsets

So it might be a new phrase, but the idea isn’t new: Deeper learning is “based on the premise that the nature of work, civic, and everyday life is changing and therefore increasingly requires that formal education provides young people with mastery of skills like analytic reasoning, complex problem solving, and teamwork.” (That’s the Wikipedia definition.)

How are we thinking about deeper learning at BHS?

For the last three years, BSD has been engaged with a project called the Deeper Learning Dozen, which is about bringing deeper learning to the whole district. DLD is co-organized by a professor at Harvard named Jal Mehta, who wrote a book about deeper learning in high schools. We’re using that book this year to ground our work in specific ideas about what deeper learning looks like in action. For example:

  • Young people find purpose in their work, which can be found in a motivating final task or an puzzling intellectual challenge
  • Young people develop mastery of knowledge or skills specific to a certain academic domain (like biology)
  • Young people identify with the fields they’re studying: They are scientists and musicians and writers
  • Young people use what they know about a domain to make unique contributions to the field: For example, engaging in citizen science, preparing oral histories, or using statistics to analyze voting patterns

What does all of this mean for classroom practice this year?

We recognize that folks will engage with deeper learning in all different ways. Our biggest priority is for teachers to engage in experiments that align with your own goals for your pedagogy. Want to build stronger student relationships? Design “authentic” projects? Explore new forms of assessment? Deeper learning can be manifest in all of those goals.

To support you, we’re offering four different “kits” throughout the fall. These kits will include materials (like books and other resources) and experiments (in the form of a card deck and this website) to spark new ideas – or strengthen your existing work.

On December 8, we’ll come together to share the results of these experiments and plan for how to continue this work in the spring.

Deeper learning in action:

From the Hewlett Foundation (3:30): Rahil, a student at Impact Academy in Hayward, California, describes what the school's deeper learning approach – a focus on critical thinking, problem solving, project based learning, and communicating effectively – has meant for him and his family. Impact Academy is part of Envision Schools, a group of schools dedicated to preparing students to succeed in a changing world.

From the PBS News Hour (8:51): Special correspondent John Tulenko looks at some charter schools that institute real world applications into lesson plans and emphasize the importance of improvement over intelligence. The schools are less interested in testing but rather making sure students have the life skills they need once they leave the classroom.