In all of my years sitting in classrooms as a student, in public schools that were highly regarded, I never once produced anything that resembled authentic work or had value beyond addressing a class requirement. My time was spent on an academic treadmill of turning in short assignments completed individually as final drafts – worksheets, papers, math problem sets, lab reports – none of which meant much to anyone and none of which resembled the work I have done in the real world. Although I received good grades, I have no work saved from my days in school, because nothing I created was particularly original, important or beautiful.
Yet when we finish school and enter the world of work, we are asked to create work of value – scientific reports, business plans, websites, books, architectural blueprints, graphic artwork, investment proposals, medical devices and software applications. This work is created over weeks or months with team consultation, collaboration and critique, and it goes through multiple revisions. The research, analysis, and production involve multiple disciplines, such as reading, writing, mathematics, science, engineering and design.
When will students develop the skills to do this kind of work if not in school? It’s not just the reading and math skills; it’s also the planning, problem solving and working collaboratively. When do we believe students will develop the dispositions to persevere over time with a challenging project and hold themselves to high standards of quality? These skills and mindsets – collectively known as Deeper Learning – can only be built through long-term practice in classrooms where students work together on significant projects.
The very few artifacts I have of my own learning in school are artifacts of “deep learning.”
I totally agree that if we’re not giving kids opportunities to go deep into subjects and ideas that they find interesting, we’re not giving them the experiences they need to flourish in an abundant world.