Deeper Learning

Deeper learning is a term being used in education more frequently in education circles.  Hopefully it is replacing the term 21st Century Learning (since we are now 18 years into the 21st century).  Apologies for that quick rant…

Anyways, if we want to elevate the the educational experiences of our students, we need to get clear on what we mean.  When thinking about Deeper Learning, I turn to the work supported by the Hewlett Foundation.  They describe Deeper Learning through:

6-deeper-learning-bannerMore specifically, the Hewlett Foundation defines each one as:

Master core academic content: Students develop and draw from a baseline understanding of knowledge in an academic discipline and are able to transfer knowledge to other situations.

Think critically and solve complex problems: Students apply tools and techniques gleaned from core subjects to formulate and solve problems. These tools include data analysis, statistical reasoning, and scientific inquiry as well as creativity, nonlinear thinking, and persistence.

Work collaboratively: Students cooperate to identify and create solutions to academic, social, vocational, and personal challenges.

Communicate effectively: Students clearly organize their data, findings, and thoughts.

Learn how to learn: Students monitor and direct their own learning.

Develop academic mindsets: Students develop positive attitudes and beliefs about themselves as learners that increase their academic perseverance and prompt them to engage in productive academic behaviors. Students are committed to seeing work through to completion, meeting their goals, and doing quality work, and thus search for solutions to overcome obstacles.

Over the course of this school year, I have been fortunate to be part of a group of educators from my middle school and our high school to look at “Reimagining the 7-12 experience” of our students.  Instead of looking at what we do in middle school and what they do in high school, we are coming together as a school campus to innovate together.  This exciting journey is one that I will be chronicling through this blog in the coming months.  This blog will also serve to encourage others to think about “reimagining” the experience for they students they serve.

This journey with these amazing educators will take us to the Deeper Learning Conference in San Diego, hours of collaboration after school, and a 3 day visit from the Buck Institute in August to deepen our learning on using Project Based Learning as a tool create authentic learning opportunities to go deeper with our students.

A while back, I visited another school that was focusing on creating a Cultures of Thinking within their school.  One thing the principal mentioned tome was his belief that if schools did not begin to focus on the thinking of students, they would no longer do well as students would not prepared for both the new standardized tests, but more importantly for the demands of the world in which are students will enter.

Basically, he was saying schools needed to INNOVATE by focusing on thinking otherwise, previously successful schools would begin to lag behind in terms of student outcomes.

The first part of The Innovator’s Mindset reminded me of this.  In his book, George Couros makes reference to a satirical video produced by The Onion, in which they take a fictional look at a Blockbuster Video museum.  The video is actually pretty funny and can be found at

Blockbuster Video was in business not too many years ago and I am sure many of us can remember going there.  What happened?  They failed to innovate and they became obsolete against the likes of Netflix, iTunes, and Hulu.  They were comfortable with the status quo.  They were content.  They felt like they were “good.”

As often is said, good is the enemy of great.  In my district, we have always been a “good” district.  Our students and parents have been happy with the education received.  Our test scores on the traditional assessments were good.  By traditional measures, we are doing great!

But on our campus, there exists a group of teachers who did not want to rest on just being good.  They aren’t satisfied with our students just doing well.  They are looking at not what our students were learning, but how?  We see students who were already beginning to play the game of education.  The game where students memorized the answers to demonstrate success, all the while not getting to deep learning or thinking.

We wanted more for our students!  It is through this passion for our students on our 7-12 campus that Deeper Learning WILL become a reality for students.  We will create an experience where students will learn at deep levels and be able to transfer their knowledge into new situations in the future!

Get ready…because this journey is going to be a blast!

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