Deeper Learning for All!

This week we continued our reading into the new pedagogy in Rich Seam.  This chapter, in particular, focused on the 6 C’s; which is the 4 C’s of the 21st Century Skills with the addition of character education and citizenship.  The 6 C’s are:

  • Character Education
  • Citizenship
  • Communication
  • Critical Thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity

Originally I thought that character education and citizenship could fall under the same grouping but realize that character education is more about character traits and looking inward and citizenship is about using those character traits outward toward the environment or the world. Some character education traits include honesty, responsibility, and grit.  Some citizenship traits include tolerance and respect for other cultures, responsibility towards environment and sustainability, and global knowledge.  Naturally, I started to compare this to the PYP.  I found that the Attitudes and Skills that are outlined as part of the 5 Essential Elements of the PYP encompasses a lot of the character education and citizenship traits.

The PYP Skills are:

  • Thinking Skills
  • Social Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Self-Management Skills
  • Research Skills

The PYP Attitudes are:

PYP Attitudes created by Boramy Sun @LittleTechBee on Canva

Call it what you want, but character education and citizenship or attitudes and skills are really great areas of focus for our 21st Century learners and will prepare them for the future.  But the question still remains: how do we teach these kinds of skills?  That lies with the second component of this new pedagogy: deeper learning tasks. With these tasks, educators can hope to attain these outcomes.  Deeper Learning tasks are learning tasks that have been re-structured that seek to move students past content mastery with real experiences that extend past the classroom.  Technology is both a resource and a tool that is used heavily in these tasks.  Technology allows students to access information and the ability to feel the authenticity of a real work task.

There are 4 components to the Theory of Action for Deeper Learning and they are:

  1. Create a Strong School Culture
  2. Teachers Function as Professionals in a Collaborative Community
  3. Teachers Design Meaningful Learning Experiences for Students
  4. Deliberate Practice of Deeper Learning Outcomes

Dr. Monica Martinez writes  “If a culture in which educators and students trust and respect one another and feel responsible for each other’s success as learners is established; and teachers function as professionals in a collaborative community, then teachers can design or adapt learning experiences that are meaningful to students which will lead students to regularly engage in acquiring and applying knowledge and skills through the deliberate practice of Deeper Learning outcomes.  This will result in students leaving school with the knowledge of how, why, and when to apply content knowledge and a set of non-cognitive skills to answer questions and solve problems related to the challenges of college, career, and life (knowledge transfer).“ (Planning Guide

Within the planning guide, each of the components has a few underlying principles with an accompanying rubric.  Using the rubric, I gave an informal assessment of where I thought my school stood for the first component: Establishing a Strong School Culture.  I was a bit worried as I feel that our school does focus a lot on content mastery but I was happy to say that we had one principle in Level 4: Systemizing and did not have any in Level 1: Limiting.  Even before we became a PYP school, our campus realized the need for a common language across grades and teachers so all students could understand.  All of the common spaces including outdoor play, indoor play, the buses, and the cafeteria had posters of acceptable behavior with common language throughout.  We decided as a campus to adopt Kelso’s choices as our common language to help our students with conflict resolution and placed posters of his choices all over campus.  This meant everyone on staff came on board and we all used the same questions when confronted with a conflict: “is it a small problem or a big problem?”  Followed with “have you tried a Kelso’s choices?  Try 2 and if it doesn’t work, you can come back to me.” You can hear everyone from specialists to assistants and classroom teachers asking the same questions.  After our school became a PYP school, we integrated learner profiles into our language too.  Signs and posters are placed around the campus in both English and Mandarin. 

Establishing a Strong School Culture  
Incoming Students are immediately immersed in the school’s culture and learning approach Level 2: Initiating
The school’s core values are reflected in the physical design and use of space Level 3: Integrating
Common Language is consistently used Level 4: Systemizing
Students are well known and supported by an adult and peers Level 3: Integrating
Community and collective Responsibility are established through school-wide events and support for student’s voice Level 2: Initiating
Photo by Janko Ferlic from Pexels

So how would deeper learning tasks look like in my school or classroom?

Even though we have a tendency to focus on content mastery, there are a few units that naturally lends itself to deeper learning tasks.  For example, in Grade 4, there is a unit on business and entrepreneurship. Teachers can easily connect with the real world by having students create a business plan with their target market, a sales pitch, and an advertisement.  Students are learning real-life skills in creating PowerPoint presentations of their business plans as well as advertising and marketing campaigns.  Students go online to gather resources and examples to help them create their own plans and business models. This unit culminated in a market day where other students were allowed to purchase their wares or services.  Students learned to assess why some business ideas did better than others.  Some students were really creative and were able to really think outside of the box.  We had one student sell braiding services. For a small fee, she would twist and turn her client’s hair into beautiful braids.  Another student created a game and charged students a fee to play the game.  Another student was a DJ and charged a fee to listen to music.  I noticed that these students are highly engaged throughout the unit and were authentically learning literacy and math skills that they applied to their business plan.

During the Grade 5 Exhibition, students choose a topic of their choice and they are tasked with doing the research and presentation.  One group’s topic was about the contribution of plastic to the current pollution led to students taking a stance on plastic straws.  They created a proposal on why businesses should stop giving out plastic straws and presented them to local businesses.  When they presented them, the local businesses listened and agreed and they set a goal on the date of when they would stop serving straws.  These students were able to institute change on a community level.  These students felt a sense of empowerment since they were able to voice their concerns and advocate for something and then to see it fully realized.

I can see the importance of these kinds of activities but unfortunately this is far and few in between at my school. It seems to happen more often in the younger years where inquiry happens a bit more organically and schedules are a bit more open to help facilitate the time and space that is needed to fully explore an idea or topic that the students deem worthy.  In the older grades where the learning activities might be more structured, students aren’t as involved.  They might help steer which areas of the topic they would like to explore but teachers are usually the only ones involved in creating the learning activity or task.  Teachers are always open to student suggestions, however.  I wonder how we can create a system where student input is consistently sought out by the classroom teacher and implemented when fulfilling the task.  I think the first step would be to have a conversation about what this task might look like.  I have seen the teachers co-create rubrics together with students and this can be a great model for teachers to partner with their students in creating deeper learning tasks. 

One obstacle to deeper learning that we might need to address and overcome is an inherent bias that we all have.  When reading the article Everyone has Invisible Bias, I went in feeling confident that I knew what this article was going to discuss.  It was similar to how I felt when reading about the cycle of socialization. However, I have never confronted my own bias, but right off the bat, when I read about students who only chose to read articles that supported their opinions, I knew I was guilty of the same thing. Everyone has biases based on our experiences and understanding and it is crucial to nurture this self-awareness of these biases so they can become critical thinkers. 

I think that I have a lot to work on in regards to maximizing technology in deeper learning.  I always think about what is developmentally appropriate for students along with the unity of study when creating lessons but to maximize will require me to combine my knowledge of ISTE standards and the frameworks when creating these lessons. This requires more collaboration and planning on my part with the homeroom teacher AND the students so that I’m not missing out on ways that I could further integrate my lessons while giving them agency in their learning. 

2 thoughts on “Deeper Learning for All!

  1. Hi Boramy,

    I really enjoyed reading your post this week. You made some great connections between the Fullan reading on Deep Learning and the PYP framework that incorporates the Skills, Attitudes and Learner Profile attributes. The link you provided had some great visual representations of these elements, thanks for sharing that!
    Another part of your post that really resonated with me this week was the part where you talk about Dr. Monica Martinez’s work on action in relation to deep learning. I especially like how it’s noted that there must be a strong school culture for deep learning and meaningful change to happen. In my experience, school culture is the single most important thing to get right because if you do, anything is possible, and if you don’t then nothing will really work.
    Like you, I see scattered examples of these deep learning tasks in my school as well, but not as frequent as I’d like considering how important these 21st-century skills are for today’s students. I’m hoping that with time, we can generate more opportunities to inject agency and deepen the learning experiences we can facilitate. Thanks for sharing, and I hope to continue to connect with you as these opportunities arise.

  2. Hi Boramy, I really like what you said at the beginning regarding character vs citizenship, and how character is about looking inward and working on yourself, and citizenship is taking those good character traits and spreading them outwards. You also bring up a poignant question, how do we teach these traits in a 21st century context? I think that providing students with opportunities to learn about empathy is a perfect setting to work on character and citizenship skills. This can come from, as Dr. Martinez was speaking to, authentic learning tasks, in which students are given the opportunity to put themselves in different situations that stretch them. Some examples of this authentic learning might include through a Design Thinking experience, in which they must empathize and design for others, or through a service learning experience, in which they are out in the community and serving others, or a Classroom Without Wall trip in which they are put completely out of their comfort zone and forced to collaborate with others to overcome challenging situations. These are examples which can all build character, and really let our students become better global citizens.

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