This is part three of a three-part blog series about the “Promoting Deeper Learning through Equity, Diversity, and Personalized Learning” Study Tour to Oakland, California. Click here for part one and two.
“Finally, the only way to increase the stock of people clamoring for deeper learning is to have people actually experience what it is like to learn deeply. Thus for those who believe in deeper learning, they need to think not only about students, but also parents, legislators, and others who influence the schooling process. Once people have been part of a powerful learning experience, they are much more likely to want to build a whole system full of them.” – Jal Mehta, Harvard Graduate School of Education
If you’re passionate about promoting educational equity and haven’t read Jal Mehta’s piece Deeper Learning Has a Race Problem, I suggest you do. Jal brings to light several issues and common objections related to deeper learning and equity, and attempts to address these with a few suggestions to begin moving the needle. In his final suggestion above, Jal makes an important point about educational equity: if educational stakeholders have the opportunity to experience deeper learning themselves and truly understand its value, then they will be much more likely to support, promote, and work to scale deeper learning. In turn, the spread of deeper learning will lead to more equitable access to deeper learning, particularly for historically underserved students.
At AYPF, we specialize in taking the educational stakeholders Jal references – policymakers and policy influencers – on study tours to visit schools around the country and witness deeper learning in action. On these trips, participants have the opportunity to interact and network with state, district, and local education leaders, school administrators, teachers, alumni, and students, tour classrooms and internship sites, and see the cultivation and application of students’ deeper learning competencies first-hand. In a previous post, I claimed “seeing is believing,” in terms of understanding the power of deeper learning and its positive impact on students and schools. But, seeing students experience deeper learning is different from experiencing it yourself.
The quote above has me thinking, how can AYPF take our study tours to the next level and provide participants with opportunities on these trips to learn deeply themselves? How can we move beyond seeing towards experiencing, and give participants opportunities to actually engage in their own deeper learning?
On our latest study tour to Oakland, California, one of the schools we visited was MetWest High School. MetWest is a public school within the Oakland Unified School District and a part of the Big Picture Learning network, a student-centered education model. MetWest incorporates personalized learning, project-based learning, and authentic assessments in a supportive environment. Students even participate in twice-weekly mentored internships in the local community where they are able to explore their interests and passions.
On that school visit, participants witnessed several student exhibitions. These are culminating presentations that students give at the end of the year to an audience of their teachers, peers, parents, and members of the community. Exhibitions are an opportunity for students to demonstrate their deeper learning competencies, such as mastering academic content, thinking critically, and communicating effectively, and reflect on their academic accomplishments, research projects, and internship experiences, and also share some areas for growth and plans for the next year.
As members of the audience, our study tour participants took part in this demonstration of student learning and had the opportunity to interact with students and ask follow-up questions. While this kind of exposure to deeper learning is an important first step, I’m wondering how AYPF can make this experience even more impactful and engaging.
On these study tours, we purposely build in a lot of personal and peer-to-peer debrief and reflection time. We provide participants with a personal reflection journal where they can take notes, capture questions, and begin thinking about how their learning can be applied to their work. We also reserve time to reflect and share on what policies and practices are needed to support deeper learning in their on local or professional context.
Perhaps AYPF can take this one step further and facilitate participant exhibitions, as we often see on our school visits. Perhaps we can arrange for participants to present what they have learned at the conclusion of the study tour, to create a more authentic deeper learning experience. Maybe this will lead to better understanding, valuing, and ultimately supporting the spread of deeper learning to reach more students.
Witnessing deeper learning is great, but I agree with Jal that if policymakers and policy influencers experience it, they will be much more likely to understand its value and want to support, promote, and scale deeper learning. In what ways can you infuse deeper learning into your work? How can we move from seeing to experiencing deeper learning to create more equitable access to deeper learning for all students?