Designing for Deeper Learning: Challenges in Schools and School Districts Serving Communities Disadvantaged by the Educational System

Designing for and implementing deeper learning across classrooms and schools that serve communities disadvantaged by the U.S. educational system is challenging. A new paper from the Carnegie Foundation illuminates this challenge by asking the question: What would designers of interventions at the classroom, school, and district levels have to take into consideration when they want to powerfully set their organizations on a developmental path towards deeper learning?

The thinking put forth in this paper is closely informed by the experiences of a number of change projects aimed at furthering deeper learning districtwide. The projects were funded by the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation and organized as research-practice partnerships (RPPs) in which improvement teams worked together to design interventions or change activities over a period of three to four years. The approaches taken by the projects differed widely. The purpose of this paper is to aid the thinking of deeper learning designers for future undertakings by putting forth a theory of improvement informed by prior research, offering a matrix of concrete design tasks, and exploring trade-offs of pursuing different approaches.

Deeper learning in the instructional core is characterized by students productively struggling with complex ideas that are important to them given their lived experiences. Students explore these ideas with voice, inquisitiveness, imaginativeness, and collaboration. Therefore, deeper learning in the interaction between students and teachers is the hoped-for outcome of the designed and implemented intervention.

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