Deep Learning: Transferring Knowledge into Practice
As a writer, I know a little bit about a lot of things – just enough to make me dangerous. I've written stories about food allergies, unusual health concerns, exotic fruits, and movies coming soon to your local theater throughout my career. On the other hand, I know a lot about writing – and so that’s what I do for a living.
Many of the things I have written about required me to have a basic working knowledge of the topic and a general understanding of the concept. None required deep learning. Writing a compelling story that people would want to read required higher order skills – about writing – or deep learning.
Blooms Taxonomy is nothing new. Created by a committee of educators in 1956, it classifies learning objectives in the cognitive domain as follows:
Unfortunately, traditional education has for the most part emphasized the acquisition of knowledge as a learning goal. In the 21st century, we are learning that this knowledge acquisition is no longer good enough. Go one step further, and even comprehension does not serve the students of today.
With Bloom’s Taxonomy as a reference point, the focus of schools who have adopted Common Core curriculum is the deeper, higher order thinking skills in the cognitive domain.
In addition, teachers are being asked to focus on 21st century skills in the intrapersonal and interpersonal domains.
The intrapersonal domain involves self-management and the ability to regulate one’s behavior and emotions to reach goals.
The interpersonal domain involves communicating information to others, interpreting the messages of others, and the ability to respond in the appropriate way.
According to a report brief published by the National Academies (National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council) in July 2012, “Deeper learning is the process through which a person becomes capable of taking what was learned in one situation and applying it to new situations – in other words, learning for “transfer.”
Through deeper learning, the brief suggests, students develop expertise in a particular discipline or subject area.
The big question for educators is how to successfully move the carrot forward. This is a big change, not only for students, who are accustomed to reciting memorized facts to make the grade, but also for teachers, who must rethink what and how they teach.
The brief offers the following suggestions to teachers.
- Use multiple and varied representations of concepts and tasks, such as diagrams, numerical and mathematical representations, and simulations, along with support to help students interpret them.
- Encourage elaboration, questioning, and explanation – for example, prompt students who are reading a history text to explain the material aloud to themselves or others as they read.
- Engage learners in challenging tasks, while also supporting them with guidance, feedback, and encouragement to reflect on their own learning processes.
- Teach with examples and cases, such as modeling step-by-step how students can carry out a procedure to solve a problem while explaining the reason for each step.
- • Prime student motivation by connecting topics to students’ personal lives and interests, engaging students in problem solving, and drawing attention to the knowledge and skills students are developing and their relevance, rather than grades or scores.
- Use “formative” assessments, which continuously monitor students’ progress and provide feedback to teachers and students for use in adjusting their teaching and learning strategies.
Many of the deeper learning goals described in the report overlap with the goals of Common Core State Standards.
In the end, I’m not a doctor, a botanist, or a movie critic. I haven’t developed the deeper learning skills to have a career in those areas. When your students become not only knowledgeable about the topics and careers in which they’re interested, but transferring that knowledge and applying it to solve problems, create new solutions, and communicating their ideas, they can be successful doctors, botanists, movie critics – or whatever they want.
This is what deeper learning is all about.
Do you agree that schools need to refocus on deeper learning? How will you help your students develop the 21stcentury competencies that lead to success after high school? Share your comments below.