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A Deep Look at Deeper Learning

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April 15, 2014 01:12 pm

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What would it take to enable all students to receive the kind of education they need to develop the knowledge and skills essential for their success? Hundreds of schools are already dedicated to ensuring that students develop a deep understanding of core academic content and that they can use their knowledge to think critically, solve complex problems, communicate effectively, collaborate with others, learn how to learn, and develop appropriate academic mindsets. These are the deeper learning competencies needed for college and careers. But making that kind of education available for all requires changes in policy.

The new issue of the State Education Standard, a publication of the National Association of State Boards of Education, takes, well, a deep look at deeper learning. It includes a summary of a report produced by a NASBE study group, which issued three key recommendations for state policies to support deeper learning. These are:

  • Support a system that comprehensively addresses the nature of learners and the unique needs of individual students. This includes developing standards that reflect the broad needs of young people; training educators to teach diverse students; and improving school climates so that they are conducive to learning.
  • Align students’ educational experiences with 21st century college, career, and civic demands. This includes providing students with guided awareness activities; preparing educators to facilitate deeper learning competencies; and taking advantage of Open Education Resources to support deeper learning.
  • Enable a system driven by quality and open to innovation. This includes designing innovation zones and investing in data systems to evaluate policies.

In another article, I argue that state policies need to be comprehensive. While individual policies on standards, assessment, teacher education, and the use of time are critical, these policies will only be effective if they complement one another.

Other articles address assessments for deeper learning, education for citizenship, the importance of social-emotional learning, and proficiency-based systems.

State boards of education are critical to the development of deeper learning. Boards have responsibility for standards, teacher education, and other policies that affect what students learn and how classrooms are structured. It is good to have them in the conversation.

Robert Rothman is a senior fellow at the Alliance for Excellent Education and author of the book Fewer, Clearer, Higher: How the Common Core State Standards Can Change Classroom Practices.

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