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Ashfield Public School

Ashfield Public School

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Deep Learning

Deep learning: discovering and mastering existing knowledge and then creating and using new knowledge in the world

The publication, A Rich Seam. How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning (2014) describes deep learning as a process of taking what is learned in one situation and applying it to another. It describes the conditions for deep learning as being created by restructuring curriculum content from a singular focus on content mastery to the explicit development of students' capacities to learn, create and proactively implement their learning.

Consider the example of a Stage 2 History unit on the first contacts between the first Australians and the Europeans. To create deep learning in this unit teachers restructured the content around a key concept, The Lost Histories of Australia. The key concept facilitated higher order thinking by having students think deeply about how history is recorded, including them questioning the integrity and accuracy of various sources of history. In addition to the outcome of describing and explaining the effects of first contacts, students also reflected on the factors that shape understanding of the past.

Deep learning begins when students have the opportunity to interact with the centrality of a key concept. It develops as they analyse, reason with and evaluate the concept. It is demonstrated as they construct explanations and draw conclusions about the concept and apply knowledge in new ways.

With deep learning, there is a strong emphasis on the extraordinary range of information and digital accessibility that are available. There is also a strong emphasis on creativity and connection and on a student's ability to actively engage with knowledge.

The importance of deep learning in the classroom is to prepare students for a future where increasingly performance in the workforce is measured by the impact of ideas and teams' abilities to execute those ideas.

As part of professional practice it is the job of the classroom teacher to proactively and passionately create the conditions for deep learning. It is the teacher who must pursue relevant professional learning and interact with professional networks to discover new ways to deliver curriculum concepts, information and ideas. It is the teacher who must innovatively use resources and digital tools to engage students, and who must set clear and challenging goals that are guided by explicit success criteria to enable higher order thinking.

Deep learning in the classroom matters and it is about thinking critically and innovatively. It is about training the mind to ask the bigger questions. It is about the power of knowledge that is applied in ways which are transformational and sometimes radical for the purpose of harnessing and maximising opportunity.

Towards a New End: New Pedagogies for Deep Learning, June 2013. Michael Fullan & Maria Langworthy

Quality Teaching in NSW Public Schools. A classroom guide. 2003.