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Deeper Learning Digest: Ensuring Deeper Learning is for All Students

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June 17, 2016 12:05 pm

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With one-third of American workers engaging in freelance, or project-based, work, Getting Smart explores how all students are being prepared for a project-based world. The article dives in to the issue of equity in project-based learning (PBL), including which students have access to this style of learning instruction. “PBL has thrived in affluent schools where students have the basic skills and self-management to engage in complex multi-step projects,” the article notes, whereas “schools serving low income students are often overwhelmed with the challenge of students entering well below grade level,” and therefore are not focused on PBL instruction. Learn more about how groups are working to give all students access to PBL in Promising Practices in Equity and Project-Based Learning.

On Education Week’s Learning Deeply blog, Amy J. Heineke, associate professor of bilingual and bicultural education in the school of education at Loyola University Chicago, writes that deeper learning has a language problem. “Students who speak a language other than English at home, specifically students labeled as English learners (ELs), are consistently marginalized from opportunities for deeper learning in classrooms and schools,” she argues. As the population of ELs grows across the country, in urban, suburban, and rural communities, educators must question curricular and instructional practices to ensure that they are promoting access to deeper learning for this sub-group of students.

“Remember that the overarching goal for deeper learning with a language lens should be equity: We should define and maintain the desired results for deeper learning for all students and then ensure that ELs have equitable access to achieve these results. Note that equity is not equality–we cannot throw ELs into the same learning experiences as all students and simply hope they take something away. The onus falls on educators to scaffold and support students’ language development within the context of deeper learning. This is not an easy task, but one that can be achieved after deconstructing deficit-based mindsets about ELs and considering the role of language in learning.”

Heineke shares some considerations, questions, and steps that educators and the larger education community can take to ensure that EL students are able to engage in deeper learning along with their peers.

Kelly Camak, a school development coach for New Tech Network, explores how one school in California is creating pathways for students to college and career in Education Post. She discusses the concept of authentic learning, which she calls “an integral component for student success in school,” where students “know and believe in why they are learning, and see value in the work they produce,” and as a result, “develop a purposeful identity as a learner.” She draws connections between authentic learning and deeper learning, noting that a key element of deeper learning is that students “can see significance in their self, their learning and their future.” In the post, she shares some key elements of authentic learning, including community and post-secondary connections, and a project-based instructional approach, and describes how these contribute to student success.

The new National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Technology and Engineering Literacy assessment aligns with a deeper learning approach, writes Abner Oakes, director of outreach and strategic partnership at the Alliance. How does it work? The assessment “asks students to think more deeply about technology and engineering challenges by using computer simulations of technology and engineering problem-solving tasks set in a variety of real-world contexts.” Oakes explores one of the test questions, in which students help a hypothetical museum build an online exhibit about the water pollution problem in Chicago in the 1800s. Check out the full post for video demonstration and more on how the assessment engages students’ deeper learning abilities.

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Deeper Learning Digest

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