Deep Learning for the 21st Century

At the beginning of the school year,  I spent part of a day in meetings with other freshmen teachers to discuss “Deep Learning”.  As anyone can guess, it is the opposite of shallow learning.  To quote one handout, “Deep learning promotes understanding and application for life.”  This reminds me of what John Dewey, a late 19th century-early 20th century educator and philosopher, said, ” Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”  Life is full of conflict or problems.  Dewey made a point to say, “We only think when confronted with a problem.”  This must explain why my brain hurt so much after math class.  It had to have been all of the problems.

In this way our schools have not changed much; we are still trying to get our students to solve problems.  At our meeting, I laughed because of this lack of change.  Someone wants to reinvent the wheel with new educational jargon.  The truth is “a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.” Teachers today are doing a great job of challenging the students to think.

For example, one teacher showed us her website she uses for her lesson plans and to communicate with parents.  And, we found out we can have students blog on it, which is Deep Learning.  Students will have to think about what they write, communicate effectively, collaborate with others, and analyze the topic to a point that they truly understand what they are writing about.  I have set up a blog using for students in several of our English classes to discuss To Kill A Mockingbird.   

Only fear prevents some teachers from shifting the way they challenge students to learn deeply.   We must not forget another John Dewey philosophy: “The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made.  It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs.”  By embracing the technology available to us, by listening to the younger generation, and by accepting change, we can succeed and learn.



Filed under 21st century skills, Education, Measuring Student Success

6 responses to “Deep Learning for the 21st Century

  1. Deep Learning. I haven’t heard that phrase before but it resonates with me powerfully. I’m going to have a look at HarrisEnglish and Wellwishes to see what is happening. The Psychologist Rollo May once said; “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice…..but conformity.” If you and some other educators are being non-conformist in your approach then more power to you! In your hands is not just the future of your students but society itself. Scary eh?

    • I tell my students: “Question authority. Just raise your hand first.” I like May’s words also. People do need to take a stand and do the what they feel is right. I respect that in others even if I disagree. They have a right to be wrong.

    • On a completely different level would you say that Progressive Schools, ie learning through play , as a young child would help to teach verses curb their ability to “deeply learn” As a parent of a child with sensory input issues its is of utmost importance I prepare not only his mind but body for the very concept that you are discussing! Great Read

    • I guess I think about learning through play from my perspective as a ninth grade English teacher. I try to get students to play with words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs. I try to get them to see the world through other’ (fictional characters or real people) eyes. I teach an inclusion class and we have a few students who have sensory input issues. It does take a few rewrites to help a student write about an experience using the five senses (or a few of them). Thank you for reading.

    • Luckily for me my MIL is a sensory OT and has been for the past 30 years so im getting a weath of knowledge. But is it just me or are you all trained not to give difinitive anwsers? I guess its probably a better thing considering id be on the internet diagnosing everything from the cat to myself!

    • I’m a husband. I have learned to not give definitive answers until I can figure out what wifey wants. 🙂

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