Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Making the Case for "Deeper Learning"


(For an earlier piece on "Deeper Learning" dated 10/5/10 in Education Week, click here.) 

By Guest Blogger Jen Rinehart, Vice President, Research & Policy, The Afterschool Alliance

Jen Rinehart
Last week the National Research Council released a report highlighting the importance of “deeper learning.”  The report, Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Centurywas funded by a number of foundations, including the William and Flora Hewlett, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur and Nellie Mae Education foundations. 

The report validates an educational approach called “deeper learning,” which occurs as students acquire the ability to take the knowledge and skills they learn in one situation and apply it to a new situation.  This process of transferring knowledge from one situation to another develops students’ “21st century competencies,” or transferable knowledge and skills.  The report highlights three domains of knowledge and skills—cognitive, intrapersonal and interpersonal—and discusses their influence on positive outcomes in the areas of education, work and health. 

The three domains of knowledge and skills are:
  • The cognitive domain, which includes critical thinking, problem solving, reasoning and innovation.
  • The intrapersonal domain, which includes skills such as metacognition (the ability to reflect on one’s own learning and make adjustments accordingly), flexibility, self-direction and conscientiousness.
  • The interpersonal domain, which includes such skills as communication and collaboration.
It was exciting to see that the report also affirms that afterschool programs are environments conducive to deeper learning.  Many leaders in the afterschool community have long argued that afterschool settings, free from the constraints of the No Child Left Behind law, are ideal for this kind of deeper learning. 

Finally, the report urges states and the federal government to establish policies and programs in support of deeper learning and encourages policy makers to focus their attention on the key areas of assessment, accountability, curriculum and materials, and teacher education. According to the report—and what the education community has observed over the years—assessments will be key given that so much of current education policy and practice is driven by assessment. 

Afterschool has much to offer in providing opportunities for deeper learning—hopefully policy makers will recognize the importance of deeper learning and the integral role afterschool plays in implementing this approach.

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Jen Rinehart joined the Afterschool Alliance in September 2002 and established the Afterschool Alliance's WashingtonD.C. office.  Jen takes a primary role in the Afterschool Alliance's coalition building, policy and research efforts, and serves as a spokesperson for the organization.  Recent projects include America After 3 PM: A Household Survey on Afterschool in America and Kids Deserve Better, a campaign to get voters and candidates thinking and talking about children's issues, particularly afterschool. Jen also served as Interim Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance from December 2004 through June 2005.  

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