Deeper Learning is the ability to understand and address the complex elements of a subject or topic and to draw connections within and across contexts — whether that means the same class, another discipline, students' community, or the broader world.
Deeper Learning happens both independently and through collaboration, and it means that students' understanding of the what, why, and how of their learning is rich and multi-faceted.
"Deeper Learning is the understanding of not just the surface features of a subject or discipline, but the underlying structures or ideas."
— Dr. Jal Mehta, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Deeper Learning is cultivated by engaging students with grade-level work that is relevant, real-world, and interactive and emerges at the intersection of mastery, identity, and creativity as three observed outcomes of learning.
At the foundation of Deeper Learning lies the belief that all students possess innate capacity and creativity. It is the belief that when provided opportunities to engage with grade-level work that is relevant, real-world, and interactive, all students - including students of color, multi-lingual learners, and students with disabilities - can demonstrate mastery of content knowledge and practices, develop strong academic and social identity, and demonstrate creativity as part of the learning.
When student engage in Deeper Learning, they develop Mastery, Identity, and Creativity.
Mastery is evident when students develop the knowledge or skills outlined in the grade-level standards and practices, with the ability to critically apply that knowledge across situations, including real-world contexts.
Identity is evident when students become more invested in the discipline by driving their learning because they think of themselves as active agents who do that kind of work. Students feel that their cultural and racial heritages are affirmed and that their funds of knowledge, experiences, and interests are leveraged in the learning as their thinking shifts from "I'm learning about Biology" to "I am a biologist." As a result, students believe they have the capacity to be innovators, collaborators, disseminators of knowledge, and changemakers.
Creativity is evident when students shift from receiving the knowledge of a discipline to making something or acting within the discipline. Students engage with culturally relevant tasks that have multiple paths to multiple potential, standards-aligned, evidence-based solutions. Students iterate on their products to showcase the effectiveness of their reasoning.
History has shown that the educational system, as currently designed, does not yet provide all students with equitable access to build knowledge and develop the 21st-century skills necessary for the evolving demands in the world of tomorrow. Experts have claimed that opportunities to engage in deeper learning have historically been imbalanced, often more available to students from affluent backgrounds and offered based on perceptions about students' ability to learn deeply.
Collectively, we can ensure every student is prepared to thrive in and beyond school: by intentionally planning for deeper learning experiences for all students. To do this, we reflect upon the extent to which their own educational experiences have been grounded in the traditional American models of education so that we can intentionally shift towards a model that promotes deeper learning experiences.
This guidance draws from evidence-based best practices and research on Culturally Relevant Pedagogy. It is intended to support district and school administrators to understand what classroom educators need, and to support classroom educators to understand how their teaching can foster students' academic achievement, cultural competence, socio-political awareness, and to cultivate student learning experiences that support students to build knowledge and skills, develop a strong sense of academic and social identity, and exercise creativity.
Last Updated: May 10, 2023
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