Common definitions and descriptions of deeper learning have highlighted methods and programs which may facilitate deeper learning experiences. These may be nice for a school to say it is readying students for their 21st Century college and career challenges. However, few are necessary when it comes to producing what is essential–deeper learning outcomes for all students.
Necessary vs. Nice
The comparison of what is most likely to produce these outcomes, as opposed to those most commonly given priority, is stark.
What REALLY matters?
The necessary vs. nice distinctions won’t make vendors happy. Fast talking sales folks love to hit end-of-year budgets with one-time, nice solutions claimed to “do it all”. Fake claims! What these sales “do” do is clean out the budget with a fast expenditure built on “promises, promises” for quick fixes….and they fatten commissions and bottom lines.
In the current school accountability climate, when all is said and done, don’t we all wish to know how well our children are learning? Isn’t that the main concern we hear from parents, teachers, board members, college admissions officers, real estate agents, and taxpayers as they ask: ”What are _____’s standardized test scores?”
The shallow learning reported by traditional school report cards, even when reported on gussied up electronic forms, drive the continuing commitments to shallow 20th Century definitions of learners. We can interpret the traditional scales as good news or bad. If good, we smile and may even get a chance to put a “My Child is An Honor Student” sticker on the family SUV or have the Board proclaim the school’s placement in the US News’ “best in state” ranks.
With limited looks at shallow numbers and letters, we are guaranteed to see more than than a fuzzy snapshot of what students have recalled and little about their development of deeper learning skills. The shallow learning reported by traditional report cards and data-full spread sheets, communicates the barest hints of how students are developing the characteristics which will count the most in the next decades.
By going beyond test scores and report card grades to descriptions of deeper learning outcomes, schools can move their responses from snapshots to detail rich videos. Such outcomes enable parents, school boards, colleges and others to see what deeper learning looks and sounds like. This shows its added benefits for a student’s future and an understanding of how they are developing the talents and skills they will need to succeed in their futures.
The “What if’s?”
What if your school defined the characteristics of a deeper learner as your school’s desired outcomes for all? How would these outcomes change what happens each day in the classroom? How would it shift each teacher’s focus from handing out worksheets, lecturing, and checking answers from textbook homework and grading facts recalled? How would it change students from being sponges absorbing information to makers of new understandings and solvers of real world problems? Ultimately, how would these deeper learner characteristics switch the emphasis on changing schools from what might be nice to what is essential for helping all students develop the much desired deeper learner characteristics.