Rahil Maharaj explains that attending Impact Academy, an Envision school in Hayward, California, has given him the inspiration and confidence to work hard and apply to college.
To succeed in the future, students will need to know how to analyze, collaborate, and innovate. But our education system isn’t as effective at preparing them as it could be.
“In order to prepare young people to do the jobs computers cannot do we must re-focus our education system around one objective: giving students the foundational skills in problem-solving and communication that computers don’t have.” – Frank Levy and Richard J. Murnane, “Dancing with Robots”.
Tiana Alba-Lanzerin prepares to present her graduation portfolio at an Envision high school in San Francisco, California. She’ll be the first member of her family to go to college.
“The essence of deeper learning is changing the manner in which we work with young people.” –Superintendent James Merrill, Virginia Beach Public Schools
“I provide students with the opportunity to ask the questions, to become captains of their own learning.” –Teacher Brian Bailey, Ambassador School of Global Leadership in Los Angeles, California.
All students have the right to a motivating, challenging education that will prepare them to succeed in college, careers, and life and become engaged citizens. The key to that education is deeper learning.
What is deeper learning?
Imagine that you walk into an eighth-grade classroom. A small group of students is cheering. They’ve just discovered that the wind turbine they designed and built can produce almost six volts of electricity. One of the students tells you that she had to redesign the blades several times, but that she persevered. Why? She was inspired by a book she read in English class about a man in Malawi who built a wind turbine out of scrap metal to bring electricity to his village.
Another student shows you a map she made in social studies class. She points to the areas where wind turbines could be built in her state. And she proudly presents her persuasive essay, which explains the value of wind turbines. Watch a video about these students and their classmates…
These students are engaged in deeper learning—which means they are using their knowledge and skills in a way that prepares them for real life.
They are mastering core academic content, like reading, writing, math, and science, while learning how to think critically, collaborate, communicate effectively, direct their own learning, and believe in themselves (known as an “academic mindset”).
Why is deeper learning important?
All students deserve the opportunity to succeed in a rapidly changing world. When today’s students graduate, they’ll be asked to fill the jobs of tomorrow—ones we can’t even imagine now. And they’ll be asked to tackle problems like climate change and global poverty. Unfortunately, too many schools in the United States aren’t preparing the next generation to meet these challenges and seize these opportunities. A global report card, called the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment, shows that American students—including those from middle-class backgrounds—are lagging far behind their international peers in key subjects. Deeper learning is the key to making our schools more effective, because it prepares students to succeed in the world they will find after school, whatever that might look like.
How does deeper learning prepare students?
Deeper learning focuses our students’ education on developing the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in college, careers, and life. And it empowers them to better engage with their communities. A survey of Fortune 500 companies and a separate survey of members of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) both show that the most valuable skills an employee can have in the twenty-first century are teamwork, problem solving, and oral communication—all focal points of deeper learning. Students who have mastered the full deeper learning skill set—including an academic mindset and self-directed learning—can set their own goals, adapt to new circumstances, accept feedback, and persevere.
Is deeper learning really possible for all students?
Absolutely. A growing number of effective teachers, schools, and districts are proving that they can bring deeper learning to all students, from any background or neighborhood. And those students are going on to thrive in college. The new Common Core State Standards are an enormous step forward toward the goal of preparing all students for the future: across forty-five states, schools are now required to teach skills like critical thinking and effective communication alongside core academic content. And, new ways to evaluate a student’s knowledge and skills, like graduation portfolios, more effective assessments, and in-class activities, will help us see results. Parents and teachers around the country are working toward the goal that every school prepares every student—those in underserved communities and those in areas with more resources—for the twenty-first century.
What is the Hewlett Foundation's role?
At the Hewlett Foundation, we are committed to the goal that all U.S. students will receive an excellent education centered on deeper learning. To reach that objective we are focused on:
- Working with states and districts to improve learning goals, so that schools can focus on teaching deeper learning and have the support they need to reach that goal.
- Designing new ways to evaluate what students know and can do, with high school graduation projects, more effective assessments, and in-class activities to measure their deeper learning knowledge and skills.
- Providing educators with the ongoing training and tools to teach deeper learning effectively.
- Continuously sharing best practices from exemplary schools as well as research on how students benefit from deeper learning.
Where can I find more resources on deeper learning?
Our partners provide great examples of deeper learning in action.