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Deepening Your Understanding of Deeper Learning



Deepening Your Understanding of Deeper Learning provides an introduction to deeper learning approaches that state and district leaders, including high school principals, can undertake. The section offers information on selected instructional approaches that supports deeper learning outcomes and college and career readiness. It highlights equity and the economic impact of deeper learning.

Deeper learning focuses on a set of outcomes all students need to succeed in college, a career, and a changing, global economy. Although these outcomes are represented in different ways, they most often include preparing students to

  • know and master core academic content;
  • think critically and solve complex problems;
  • work collaboratively;
  • communicate effectively;
  • be self-directed and able to incorporate feedback; and
  • develop the academic mindsets necessary for learning.


What Does Deeper Learning Look Like?

There are a variety of instructional approaches that can be used to foster deeper learning outcomes in ways that benefit all students, including students from low-income families and students of color, who have been traditionally underserved. In all cases, approaches focus on engaging students in learning in which they build competencies associated with deeper learning. Examples of instructional approaches that expand deeper learning opportunities to all students follow.


How Can Deeper Learning Outcomes Be Assessed When Using These Instructional Approaches?

In all cases, instructional approaches that foster deeper learning call for assessments that measure a broad range of knowledge and skills, to determine whether students are attaining deeper learning. The instructional approaches also allow all students-including students from diverse backgrounds who possess a broad array of skills and knowledge-with the opportunity to demonstrate their learning through various modalities and methods that appeal to diverse styles and interests. Examples of strategies used to assess deeper learning follow.

  • Performance assessments ask students to apply their knowledge and skills in creating some form of product, presentation, or demonstration.
  • Project-based learning assessments are cumulative in nature. These tasks offer students opportunities to apply a set of knowledge and skills to a topic, problem, or issue over time.
  • Competency-based assessments are designed to measure specific skills that students have learned against a set of standards, often at a personalized pace. A student advances based on mastery of course content, not on the number of days spent in the classroom. These assessments can be administered to measure in-course progress, as well as at the end of a course or unit.
  • Portfolio assessment is the systematic collection of students’ work samples, records of observation, test results, and other artifacts gathered over a period of time for the purpose of evaluating student growth and achievement.


Deeper Learning Opportunities
in ESSA

Although the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015 does not specifically mention deeper learning, it offers several opportunities for states and districts to advance deeper learning and ensure that all students graduate from high school with the ability to think critically, solve complex problems, collaborate with peers, communicate effectively, and be self-directed. Some of these opportunities follow.


Tools in this Toolkit

Following is a list of tools contained in this toolkit. Each tool listing contains a title, the intended audience (SL = state leader; DL = district leader; and SDL = state and district leaders), and the purpose of the tool.


Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.