Thursday, June 11, 2015

Deeper Learning in Practice and an Everday Sense of the Sacred

"Deeper learning" is a great concept to learn and operationalize in ways that are suggested herein.

To this, I add my own thinking:
We need to cultivate in ourselves and in
society a consciousness that adheres to an everyday sense of the sacred.  Even as we strive to make the world a better
place, this consciousness humbly recognizes life's brevity, beauty's capacity to motivate positive change, and
the transformative power of love in all of our relations.
–Angela Valenzuela

the education sector, we define what students need to know and should
be able to do for succeeding in college and career. We know that they
need more than just the ability read and write -- today's constantly
changing workforce shows that they must be able to master academic
content, communicate and collaborate effectively, think critically, and
become life-long learners.

Supporting students as they develop these skills, understandings, and
mindsets often requires a shift in how we think about classroom
learning and the competencies needed by teachers to facilitate that

6 Categories of Deeper Learning Skills

What does this type of learning look like in practice? Educators across the country are using the deeper learning framework,
developed by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, in their
classrooms. Through design thinking challenges, project-based learning
activities, Genius Hours, and more, teachers can ensure that students
are engaged, motivated to persist, and developing key skills.

For example, students in a sixth grade robotics classroom might build
controllers for swimming robots. One group experiments with settings to
sink the robots by filling a bladder with water. Another works to
perfect the speed controls on the motor. Yet another tests the robot
design to ensure that it can easily move through the water. Students are
engaged and focused as they apply math, engineering, and science
knowledge to their work.

These students are engaged in the six categories of Deeper Learning skills described below.

1. Master Academic Content

In addition to building foundational academic skills in reading,
math, science, and social studies, teachers use many approaches to
support students taking their learning and exploration to the next
level. These approaches -- such as rooting projects in real-world
problems or mapping facts and concepts to help build on prior knowledge
-- enable students to connect ideas and apply knowledge across content

In the aforementioned robotics classroom, students engage deeply with
math and physics as they measure and assess the impact of the changes
they are making to control their robots' speed, agility, and water

2. Think Critically and Solve Complex Problems

As students seek to tackle problems, they must be able to analyze
those problems, develop solutions, and carry out plans to address them.
Teachers integrate these skills into instruction through engaging
activities that rely on competencies such as researching, brainstorming,
and design thinking.

The robotics students are testing their hypotheses and designing
solutions to the unexpected challenges they confront in their robot

3. Work Collaboratively

Working collaboratively in school helps students become better team
members in the future as they learn to identify strengths, assign
responsibilities, and reflect on successes. By planning thoughtful group
activities, creating expectations around group work, and encouraging
conversations about open-mindedness, teachers support these skills.

In each robotics group, students have created team agreements, identified group leaders, and divided responsibilities equally.

4. Communicate Effectively

Students develop their communication skills throughout their academic
careers as writers, presenters, artists, and team members. Teachers
strengthen those skills by providing students tools to communicate
clearly, effectively, and persuasively across all grades and subjects.

After the students have perfected their robots, they will present
them to their classmates to explain the adjustments they made to the

5. Learn How to Learn

In addition to guiding students through instruction, teachers help
them become self-directed learners who drive their own exploration. With
support from their teachers, students set goals, track their progress,
reflect on their strengths and areas for improvement, and can turn
setbacks into opportunities for growth.

In robotics class, students identify daily goals for their robot
design in their groups, create challenges for their teams, and push
their own learning to meet these goals.

6. Develop Academic Mindsets

Beyond learning academic skills, students need to become life-long
learners who take initiative, are persistent, and build relationships to
access resources. Teachers support these mindsets through activities
and discussions that focus on ethical behavior, resilience, and

While not every experiment that the students try with their robots
will be successful, they will not rest until they have found the best
approach. Once the robots are complete, students will enter them in the
Robot Olympics to determine the fastest, most agile, and most creative

Earning Micro-Credentials

Digital Promise recently released a report, "Developing a System of
Micro-Credentials: Supporting Deeper Learning in the Classroom," that
further explores the six categories above. The report also showcases 40
educator micro-credentials
that Digital Promise designed to recognize educators who have developed
competencies that support deeper learning. Micro-credentials recognize
teachers for the skills and competencies they develop throughout their

Through the deeper learning micro-credentials, educators identify and
demonstrate key competencies they can apply in their classrooms to
ensure that their students enter college and the workforce ready to
tackle complex challenges. Micro-credentials allow these educators to
share these competencies with their peers, building a stronger
professional learning community. As teachers seek to strengthen their
instruction, it is vital that we support them in developing these
competencies and provide meaningful recognition for those who do.

What does deeper learning mean to you? How do you engage students
with deeper learning experiences in your classroom and beyond? What
competencies have supported your success? We'd love to hear what you
think in the comments below.

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