We are living in a busy time in education. Changes in instruction, assessment, and content resources are impacted by technological innovations, cultural and political forces, and economic impulses on local, national, and global levels. One area of focus that resonates across the aforementioned factors is the concept of deeper learning. Understanding this movement and how you can support schools and districts with their deeper learning goals is imperative and a way to separate your organization from your competition.
For example, current trends in social studies education point towards more profound learning experiences as the north star of desired practice. Emphasizing the use of disciplinary concepts and pedagogy centered on inquiry, social studies education embraces constructivist pedagogies and the use of performance assessments to demonstrate student learning.
As a cast study, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) 2015 curriculum framework for social studies introduced a standard dedicated to the history and social science thinking skills. Consisting of ten skills designed to support deeper learning across K-12 content, teachers are charged with supporting student development of “skills for historical thinking, geographical analysis, economic decision making, and responsible citizenship” (VDOE). In addition, the state’s social studies standards and curriculum framework further deeper learning by using inquiry and concept-based learning.
Both shifts, however, are opposites of what many teachers in and beyond Virginia have been used to since the early 21st century, where rote memorization and teacher-centered instruction were held as markers of successful and valuable teaching and learning. Therefore, the need for support with these sifts across content areas and grade levels are abundant. Framing how your product and services can facilitate shifts towards a pedagogy of deeper learning should be clearly articulated so that they provide multiple inroads for a range or continuum to meet schools wherever they are on their more profound learning journey.
To this end, I offer a list of more profound learning outcomes that can help guide the conceptualization and messaging regarding your work. This list is a starting point for your resources and acts as a basis for questions you can ask schools and districts to tailor your expertise to their needs. Lastly, these more profound learning outcomes can be framed as either student or teacher practices or both.
- use of inquiry through student-generated questions
- a constructivist approach where students create meaning and understanding
- use of disciplinary concepts as part of student learning
- connections are made to the student’s life or the contemporary world
- authentic demonstration of knowledge by students
- time to reflect on how the content impacted their understanding of themselves or the modern world.
Realizing more profound learning outcomes and practices is ultimately a local classroom phenomenon. How a teacher enacts a curriculum, therefore, is where practice and policy can both be supported.
Efforts to achieve more profound learning practices in schools involve building educators’ understanding of deeper learning, designing and implementing learning experiences, and articulating these outcomes to families and the community. In my experience, school districts usually start small to pilot more profound learning practices, learn from those field tests, and then use systems to “scale up” practices so that all students benefit from deeper learning pedagogy. In turn, your work should support a shared understanding of deeper learning, refine professional development practices, broaden communication in the school system, or develop resources teachers and students can use across the district.
Writer: Craig J. Perrier
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