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DEEPER LEARNING SCHOOLS PREPARE STUDENTS BETTER FOR COLLEGE, CAREERS, AND LIFE
Today’s fastest-growing job sectors demand problem-solving and critical thinking skills, but many schools fall short in preparing students. A survey by Achieve, an education advocacy non-profit, reveals that 62% of employers feel public high schools aren’t adequately equipping graduates for the modern workforce.
78% of college faculty agree, stating that schools aren’t adequately preparing students for higher education. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) exam results highlight another concern: one in six American students struggle to solve complex problems and apply knowledge to unfamiliar situations.
Deeper Learning in Action
A group of innovative schools is aiming to change these dismal statistics by teaching students to think critically and solve complex problems. “Deeper Learning” schools, like Renaissance Secondary in Castle Rock, provide research-based instructional practices that foster deeper learning and better outcomes for students.
Renaissance Secondary organizes its curriculum through learning expeditions – units of study that allow students to “dig deep” into compelling and relevant topics. Often interdisciplinary in nature, learning expeditions ensure students gain knowledge and skills by working to investigate and respond to an engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.
“Whenever possible, student learning should have an impact beyond the walls of the school. When students share their learning with an authentic audience, they’re more invested in creating a high-quality product. When the learning also benefits the community, we all win,” says Amy Stuart, Head of School at Renaissance Secondary. “When students understand why their learning matters, they’re more engaged…. And research tells us that students retain more of what they learn when they understand the ‘why’ behind it.”
A growing body of research suggests that deeper learning schools are better at preparing students for college, careers, and life. The American Institutes for Research found that deeper learning schools have stronger academic outcomes, better attendance and student behavior, and higher rates of college attendance than more conventional schools.
Learning expeditions are designed to teach state content standards, but rather than relying solely on lectures and worksheets, they often take students outside of the classroom. Fieldwork may include collecting data or working with experts in the field. Students at Renaissance regularly engage with the community, such as working with the Army Corps of Engineers to study the local watershed. Bringing in experts contributes to a rich, authentic understanding of content.
“Too often, students experience content at only a surface level. The real challenge is to teach content in a way that students deeply understand, so that they can apply what they’ve learned in new situations,” explains Ms. Stuart.
Deeper Learning Students are More Prepared for College
Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Yale University, Jeremiah Quinlan, explains: “Yes, we want students who have achieved in and out of the classroom, but we are also looking for things that are harder to quantify, [like] authentic intellectual engagement and a concern for others and the common good.”
Research supports that schools like Renaissance, where students master academic content, communicate and collaborate effectively, think critically, and become lifelong learners, are preparing students for today’s constantly changing workforce. These schools also provide opportunities for students to distinguish themselves when applying to college.