Undertaking a process of reverse engineering when we construct our curriculum, gives us the opportunity to consider what we want our 21st century learners to look like, what they will need to know and be able to do to be successful both academically and in life.
We want our girls to be confident, articulate, able to set themselves targets, apply knowledge in unfamiliar situations, self-evaluate, take responsibility, make connections, think critically about the nature of evidence and work effectively both independently and collaboratively.
One of the challenges that students have is how to transfer knowledge and skills from one subject to another and we believe that the best way to help a girl do this is by carving out a slot in the curriculum where we can place more emphasis on key competencies and metacognition - learning to learn - than is possible in other lessons. Recognising the importance of the subject based curriculum, we believe that Deep Learning has a place to both complement and enhance it.
Years 7, 8 and 9 see the girls benefiting from two separate one hour Deep Learning lessons, providing the opportunity for us to explore a number of cross-curricular themes in an open ended and engaging way. The lessons offer the pupils a chance to dig deeply in to a topic; affording them the opportunity to decide what is interesting to them.
There will always be a tangible outcome, but what that is depends on the nature of the topic, what avenue the individual has explored and how they think they can best represent their findings. The emphasis is on deep learning, academic rigour and metacognition.
Where did the idea for Deep Learning come from?
Extended cross-curricular research study as a focus has huge underpinning in theory and practice. Renowned academic experts promote the idea of pupils researching deeply and becoming expert in a particular field; advocating cross curricular projects around the themes of explore, design and perform.
The Harvard academic, Howard Gardener, is a strong supporter of subjects - recognising that they provoke different ways of looking at things - but also stresses the importance of what he calls a ‘disciplined mind’ that is able to synthesise and thus empower an individual to think for themselves.
Using cross curricular themes in the way that we are for Deep Learning, is a proven way of helping our girls to develop a disciplined mind.
We have drawn upon the work of UNSESCO advisers, Mick Waters and Brian Male, who believe that insufficient attention has been given historically to nurturing the key skills and competencies which will foster examination success, but which will also sustain individuals through life.
The cross curricular themes we use are mapped against our own Thinking Skills dispositions so that two or three are focused on particularly in each theme.
With the emphasis on enquiry, research and digging deep, each girl produces a piece of work about one aspect of the theme that has really sparked her interest and imagination. The end result could not be further away from simply looking a subject up on Wikipedia and ‘cut and pasting’ information to call it your own.
Our teachers are extremely passionate about their Deep Learning lessons and feedback from the girls (and their parents) has been very positive with remarks on how interesting they have found the lessons, and that they are allowing them to develop listening skills, research skills and raising confidence levels.
Very remarkable progress!