Methods for Deeper Learning Madness

This week we look at different ways deep learning could look like and how they could be implemented.  Using augmented reality, project-based learning, design thinking, game design, and challenge-based learning are all effective methods for deeper learning.  A lot of the methods and articles were geared with older children but I think they can be applicable to younger children as well.  I haven’t had my own classroom in many years and so I haven’t had too many opportunities to incorporate deeper learning tasks in my lessons.  I have collaborated with teachers and students in creating a rubric for some of our digital projects.  When we were working on a weather book using the iPads and book creator, we built a rubric with the students.  We used ice cream scoops as the metaphor for great work with three scoops being the ideal number of ice creams scoops (because that’s every lactose tolerant kid’s dream, right?).  We would ask the students to give us ideas on what they thought three scoops work looked like for different components for the project such as images, sound, content, etc.  This was a nice partnership and transparency for learning.  During the feedback process, students were able to use the rubric to assess their learning and make some changes.  It was also a very tangible way to show students that we were partners and that they had a say in what they were doing and how they would be showing their learning.

Becoming partners with our students in their learning also requires teachers to let go and give them more independence.  Instituting these as part of their classroom routine is nothing new for teachers but now we must institute them as part of their culture so it is part of their thinking routine. Thinker and risk-taker are learner profiles for the PYP and I remind them that they need to be both to grow and learn.  I find that when I use these words throughout the day and relate it to different aspects of their life, it slowly but surely becomes part of the culture. Since I work with young children, they expect me to give them the answer and directions but I have no problem telling them that I’m not going to give them the answers.  When they ask me a question, I usually ask them right back.  “How do I take a picture” they like to ask and my response “I don’t know, how do you think you take a picture?”  I love telling them that “oh, look!  You figured it all out by yourself, you didn’t need me after all.”  It doesn’t mean I don’t offer scaffolding or assistance to help them become independent. After every lesson, I ask for volunteers who think they are comfortable with a specific tool that they consider themselves experts.  Students know that they need to ask these experts before approaching me or the classroom teachers.  When I give them directions during the lesson, I also draw each icon so that students have a step by step visual.  Sometimes when students are really stuck, I’ll remind them which step they are on and they can look at the board and figure out what they need to do next. It’s a fine line where we allow students to take risks and be independent but also give them just enough support if they need it to able to take those risks. 

After reading about these different methods for delivering deeper learning; the one I’m most excited about is project-based learning (PBL).  I’m very excited about trying it out for my unit in Course 5.  The webinar training has given me some invaluable resources and gives me a much better understanding.  As I read about deeper learning in Rich Seam; I was always so excited about the outcome and knew the components needed but I felt practical information was missing to connect the two.  The simple fact that there are multiple drivers for PBL was a great relief… gives me more ideas and eases my anxiety that I’m doing something “incorrectly.”  I found that inquiry-based driven projects so the option of doing an interest, problem, product or empathy-driven projects gave me lots of relief.  There are quite a few things I would like to include for my Course 5 unit besides being project-based.  I would also like to incorporate more strategic partnerships with the students and open assessments that include student-teacher conferences, rubrics, and feedback (from peers and teachers). I might be a bit over my head so I’m hoping the classroom teacher that I’m collaborating with will bring me down a few notches this week when we meet to discuss this some more. 

Photo by Edvin Johansson on Unsplash

Collaborating will require an adjustment as well.  I’ll need to support both my colleagues and my students in their deeper learning journey.  I think that collaborating with colleagues and being vulnerable by discussing my areas of weakness might be a starting point.  They will see that I am here as a partner in their learning as well as my own and that I am not here to judge or teach them.  The idea of deeper learning can apply to both students and colleagues so why wouldn’t I try to do the same things with both? With my students, I will be upfront with them that I’m trying something new, that it’s scary and I hope it works but it also might not but we need to be reflective of what’s working and what’s not working.  I think one way that I can support both my students and colleagues is to give them space;  the space to question, to grow, to learn and to fail.

Looking at effective ways that deeper learning could be taking place still requires us to take a hard look at the ways we have of measuring and assessing student knowledge.  In chapter 5 of Rich Seam, Fullan writes that “assessment is the weakest part of the new pedagogies model they [sic] have presented in the [the] report.” He points out this new type of learning requires a new type of assessing because the old methods don’t actually capture all of the ways that students are learning.  When we focused on content mastery, having tests and quizzes make a lot of sense.  An assessment gauges what the student has learned or how far the student how much the student has gained or how far they’ve moved.  Where did the student start and where did they finish?  If we’re assessing for the character education, citizenship, communication, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity; we need to rethink our assessment methods.  The PBL webinar gives some great example of how we could assess and measure the impact of deep learning:

Photo by Gerd Altmann from Pexels
  • Self-Reflection
  • Creation and Tracking Goals
  • Student-Teacher Conferences
  • Peer Assessment
  • Student Survey
  • Self-Assessments

I think one aspect to help effectively measure deeper learning is to focus on feedback.  Were students able to use the feedback to make changes (creativity); are students able to critically assess their peers’ work and give relevant feedback (critical thinking, citizenship, and collaboration); and were students able to positively receive feedback ( communication & character education)? When I taught Grade 1 students, I used to be so bothered by the reading assessments because of the language that was used.  I knew where my students were as readers and I knew they could do it but the wording was too difficult to understand for someone who had speech issues or was an English as a second language learner.  I started to teach them certain aspects of the assessments.  I would say when I ask you this… it means this… I think the opposite could be true for deeper learning.  If we’re wanting to focus on the 6 C’s – why not include them in the rubric for us to assess?  It’s no secret that these are the things we want to focus on and the students should also know that these are the areas they need to grow. 

One thought on “Methods for Deeper Learning Madness

  1. I love the routine you use that encourages students to turn to each other as experts before approaching the teacher. We often use this structure within our grade 5 community. For some units, we have actually had this posted for students to be able to refer to, which has been great! Reading your post is a reminder to start this up again.

    I also appreciated reading abut how you deal with student questions. This has been an area I have developed (and continue to develop) over the past few years. One of my colleagues is very good at turning student questions into great opportunities for learning. I have learned a lot from her and feel this is an area I have shown huge growth in. So often when we tell students what to do, we are stopping the learning. It is nice to see that even with younger students, you are taking this approach as well!

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