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San Diego Educator’s Quest To Find ‘Deeper Learning’

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"In Search of Deeper Learning" authors study innovative schools to find out what it takes to inspire deeper learning in students at public high schools.

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Aired: May 7, 2019 | Transcript

Photo credit: "In Search of Deeper Learning"

"In Search of Deeper Learning: The Quest to Remake The American High School" book cover captured May 6th, 2019.

What does it take to inspire public high school students to develop a deep understanding rather than a shallow understanding of academic subjects? A San Diego educator was part of a two-person team who set out to answer that question.

Sarah Fine is a faculty member at the High Tech High Graduate School of Education and a lecturer at the University of California, San Diego.

Jal Mehta is an associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Fine and Mehta co-wrote "In Search of Deeper Learning: The Quest to Remake The American High School." The book is based on 750 hours of classroom observations. The pair gained access to 30 of the nation's most highly praised public high schools for their innovation. The book compiles information gathered from more than 300 interviews.

Fines told KPBS anchor Ebone Monet that their research revealed pockets of powerful deeper learning.

Q: What is deeper learning?

A: I spent the last eight years with my co-author Jal Mehta from Harvard trying to figure that out. We did a study of 30 different high schools around the country where we were looking for evidence of kids at work who are really engaged in what they were learning in their classrooms. Beyond engaged, who were really intellectually stimulated by what they were doing, found personal meaning in what they were doing, and we're doing work that was kind of conceptually rich.

Q: Why focus on public schools?

A: I think we felt very deeply that it was likely that the least rich learning was happening for the least well-served students who are in public schools for the most part. And I think we also really wanted to know what are the possibilities of public education in this day and age.

Q: Why is deeper learning important?

A. What it takes to make a living wage in this society is changing dramatically and very quickly. We know that employers' privileged applicants who can think creatively, who can problem solve, who can collaborate really well, and who can acquire new skill sets along the way. Because employers know that the work that we're doing is changing very quickly. So having one fixed set of skills is no longer sufficient. It's more about the capacity and disposition to keep learning rather than knowing something you know in its entirety really well, the way that it might have sufficed earlier.

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