The Common Core and Deeper Student Learning

Common Core and Deeper Learning-brainDeeper Student Learning

In typical classrooms across America, students engage in foundational learning activities that build their baseline knowledge and understanding of concepts and skills. In addition, teachers work to identify gaps in foundational learning and work with students to close these gaps.

If students only experience these learning opportunities—building foundational knowledge & understanding and responsive tutoring to close gaps in those areas —do they have the best opportunity for developing conceptual understanding of content?

Think about that for a moment…think about the last time you learned something new… when did that learning stick? When did you develop conceptual understanding? What types of experiences did you have that made that new learning stick in your brain? 

Deeper Learning-1For students to develop conceptual understanding, they must engage in deeper learning. There is compelling evidence that indicates that deeper student learning occurs when their learning opportunities have the following characteristics:

1. Cognitive Learning:

  • Students engage in reasoning and problem solving

2. Intrapersonal Learning:

  • Students self manage, direct themselves, and build conscientiousness in their learning

3. Interpersonal Learning:

  • Students express ideas, communicate, and work with others

Research Note: National Research Council. Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2012. Link:

Research indicates that in order to provide the best opportunity for students to reach deeper learning, teachers should design student learning experiences that hone in on the following:

  • Interpersonal learning opportunities
    • Require students to express ideas, communicating verbally and through the written word
    • Get students working with other students and talking to each other about their learning and their thinking
  • Intrapersonal learning opportunities
    • Require students to manage their own time and learning direction
    • Provide students choice in their learning experiences
    • Ask students to reflect on their learning experiences
    • Increase the amount of student voice- teacher acts as the facilitator while students are the leaders in their own learning
  • Cognitive learning opportunities
    • Connect the big ideas of the content to the real world experiences of the student
    • Ask students to problem solve and reason
    • Provide open ended questions that students must solve together

Research Note: National Research Council. Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2012. Link 

Deeper Learning-2

Common Core, SBAC and PARCC Connections

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and Partnership for Assessment of College and Career resources recognize this Deeper Learning research and, as such, have developed standards and assessments that require students to demonstrate their own deeper learning.

Research and Media Skills Blended into the Standards as a Whole: To be ready for college, workforce training and life in a technological society, students need the ability to gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize and report on information and ideas, to conduct original research in order to answer questions or solve problems and to analyze and create high volume and extensive range of print and non-print texts in media forms old and new. The need to conduct research and produce and consume media is embedded into every aspect of today’s life. In like fashion, research and media skills and understandings are embedded throughout the Standards rather than treated in a separate section.

Common Core State Standards Initiative. English Language Arts Key Design Considerations. .

The CCSS, SBAC and PARCC assessments urge teachers to focus their instruction on student learning tasks that focus on critical thinking and deeper understanding of material. 

Deeper Learning Exemplified

Deeper Learning-questionsSo, let’s go back to the original question I asked you at the beginning of this post- does the research that you just read about connect to your answer to the question that was posed earlier?

“What types of experiences make new learning stick in your brain?”

I’m sure the research supports some, if not all, of what you thought. The question now becomes, how do we make certain to provide our students with opportunities to make learning stick??

The CCSS points us in the right direction- through an inquiry approach to learning. No longer should students be told the answers through lecturing and basic recall activities, instead students now should be required to research and problem solve in order to find solutions.

So, what should Deeper Learning activities look like in classrooms? In a basic sense, they should simply reflect tasks and activities that combine elements of our Deeper Learning Graphic:

Deeper Learning-3

Deeper Learning activities should require students to engage in inquiry based collaborative learning that requires students to solve problems that are related to the essential questions of curriculum. The central idea is to get students working together, exploring the answer to open ended questions that are directly related to the world they live in through research, discussion and teamwork. 

CCSS Inquiry Based Collaborative Learning Across Grade Levels

The CCSS specifically spells out research and inquiry skill development in Writing Standards 7, 8, & 9.

College & Career Readiness Anchor Standard: Research to Build and Present Knowledge

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research

Click HERE to view a detailed table following the grade level expectations of these standards. Take a look noting the key differences between grade spans (Spans have been broken up by Elementary, Middle and High School).

As you read the table, reflect on what you’ve read here; think about how you are best preparing your students to engage in Deeper Learning tasks and activities. What can you do differently to ensure that student learning sticks?

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