Common Core And ‘Deep Understanding’
On the Brown Center Chalkboard, a blog produced by the Brookings Institution, Tom Loveless has a terrific post (not just because he cites me). He writes:
Deeper Learning is the current term for an old idea. The notion is that schools spend too much time focused on the acquisition of knowledge, especially knowing facts. In the past century, several alternatives have arisen to dethrone the prominent role of knowledge in schools: project-based learning, inquiry and discovery learning, higher-level thinking, critical thinking, outcome based education, and 21st Century Skills. Now it is deeper learning.
Loveless provides two examples of “deeper learning.” His first is a summary of my personal story of struggle with the discovery learning approach that my kids’ former school uses to teach math. The second example comes from the international assessment known as PISA, or the Programme for International Student Assessment. Loveless contends that the tests may not actually assess the type of deep learning that we aspire to.
Loveless cautions readers to be “skeptical when encountering deeper learning in the future.”
In many of the conversations I have had with supporters of the new Common Core State Standards, people say that these standards will lead to “deeper understanding.” In some cases, the new standards have led school districts to adopt curriculum and teaching practices, much like the ones I describe in my account, which are supposed to lead to “deep understanding.”
Loveless’ post ends with this admonishment: “In the days ahead, you will be hearing a lot about deeper learning. Please be on guard. This virtuous sounding term means much more than its two words imply.” I could not agree with him more.
In Missouri and other states around the country, the Common Core Standards are being implemented. Be on guard if your child’s school begins talking about deep understanding, and find out what they mean by that term.