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Instructional Practices for Deeper Learning: Lessons for Educators

May 19, 2017

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In just the past ten years, there has been a remarkable confluence of thinking about instruction and student learning in the United

States and internationally. This new consensus emphasizes “mastering rigorous academic content, learning how to think critically and solve problems, working collaboratively, communicating effectively, directing one’s own learning, and developing an academic mindset.”
This approach to teaching and learning, commonly referred to as “deeper learning,” has gained traction in recent years as researchers and educators have come to recognize that today’s youth need to develop these competencies to access opportunities in the 21st-century global economy. A National Academies report drew attention to deeper learning, and a follow-up guide for practitioners explored effective teaching approaches for deeper learning in the context of various subjects.

Additionally, deeper learning is reflected in rigorous standards such as the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards.  The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an international assessment that measures the reading, math, and science skills of 15-year-old students.
With its first administration in 2000, PISA provided a scientifically reliable and valid measure
of deeper learning before the term gained widespread use. Specifically, PISA measures student attainment of critical thinking and problem-solving skills in those three subject areas by the end of compulsory schooling. While PISA is designed to assess national- level outcomes and provide an international benchmark, school districts and schools in certain countries, including the United States,
have been given the opportunity in recent years to participate in the PISA-based OECD Test for Schools as a way to obtain school-level results in order to inform school improvement.
America Achieves and the Center for Global Education at Asia Society support school systems in their efforts to improve performance and contracted with Policy Studies Associates (PSA) to examine the instructional practices focusing on deeper learning skills in districts and schools participating in the OECD Test for Schools or PISA. A research team from PSA conducted site visits to high schools
in four school districts in the United States and Canada to learn about the instructional practices and strategies taken by educators to promote the deeper learning competencies addressed by the assessments.

This summary brief is intended to provide practitioners with concrete strategies and practices for supporting instructional improvement efforts.

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