5 Principles for Deeper Learning

Almost every teacher wants to actively engage their students in learning the content of the subject being taught, but this is much, much harder than it sounds. Research shows that the more interested a student is in the information being taught, the more likely she is to dig deeper and apply what she has learned. So, what are the teaching strategies that make this happen?

Compelling Core Content

As instructors, teaching content because it is a state or federal mandate is nonnegotiable, but how we teach it is. Worksheets and multiple choice questions serve a worthy purpose, but they should not be the whole of the evaluation technique. Taking that core content and applying it to a new task encourages deeper learning. 

Clear Communication

Clear communication is the foundation for all learning. As an instructor, we should be encouraging our students to ask questions, make connections and share what they have learned with their peers. Students should be able to question out loud, hypothesize and test out thoughts and assumptions. An ongoing dialogue between teachers and students is healthy.

Establish the Value of Learning

As teachers, we should be able to demonstrate the relationship between and among the concepts that we teach. This can mean collaborating with other teachers to instruct a certain concept in every class, showing the connection among subjects. Extend that by showing real-world examples where the concepts taught are applied in a real-life context. Ultimately, we want to create lifelong learners.

Encourage Collaboration 

Teach students through group projects, presentations, and performances that working with others elicits new thoughts and ideas on a subject. Let the students see you as a teacher working with other teachers to present a months’ long unit on a theme, which you then tie into a real-life problem to solve.

Teach How to Learn

If we adjust the instructional time to go beyond just teaching concepts, but instead teach our students how to learn what they want to know, we have done them a great favor. So, instead of giving them all of the information, help them find it for themselves. This engages critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are necessary for upper-level academics and all parts of life. 

Deeper learning involves both lower order skills such as remembering and understanding, and higher order skills such as analyzing, applying, creating and evaluating. Especially helpful is a process to reinforce a new concept: State the new concept, Paraphrase the new concept, Provide an example of the new concept, and Prepare an explanation of the new concept. 

While it may seem overwhelming to shift your teaching strategies, if you start with just one concept and teach it in a collaborative, thought-provoking way, you have begun to head in a new direction.  The use of technology can aid the process by reinforcement through quizzes and games. Actively engage your students in the learning process by making them take responsibility for the learning while you are there to help and cheer them on.

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