California Educator

August/September 2019

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For their new book In Search of Deeper Learning: The Quest to Remake the American High School, Jal Mehta and Sarah Fine visited 30 schools, conducted 300 interviews and sat in on classes for 750 hours. Schools included San Diego's High Tech High, which serves as one of the book's anchor case studies. The authors observed how the best schools and teachers engage with students to pro- m ot e d e ep er l ea rni n g. T h ey d et ermi n ed that mastery (when students understand a subject), identity (when they connect this knowledge to their own sense of self ), and creativity (when they can apply what they know to another area or topic) define "pow- erful learning experiences." Here they suggest strategies to create such experiences. W hen we talk to audiences about our book, we often get asked what teachers in ordinary high schools can do to deepen the learning in their classrooms. Is powerful learning even possible, given constraints such as short blocks, high stu- dent loads, teacher isolation, and pressures to prepare students for standardized tests? e bad news is that American high schools are generally not set up to support powerful learning. But the good news is that we saw pockets of such learning in virtually all the schools that we visited — including underresourced traditional schools. ese examples suggest that there is a lot that individual teach- ers can do. HELP STUDENTS "PLAY THE WHOLE GAME" OF YOUR SUBJECT How do professionals in the field that you teach spend their time? What kinds of activities organize their work? What are they seeking to create or produce? These questions, we believe, should be the starting point for how you think about structuring learning experiences for stu- dents. Too often, teachers feel pressured to teach the "school version" of science, math, or English — a version of these disciplines that bears little resemblance to the actual work of the field. Scientists, for example, don't spend time doing experiments where they already know the outcome; rather, they try to understand phenomena that have not yet been fully explained. Mathematicians don't simply memorize and apply algorithms; rather, they tackle unsolved problems to generate new knowledge for the field. Literature scholars rarely write five-paragraph essays in which the thesis is placed up front; rather, they play with both structures and ideas. Cognitive scientist David Perkins has a useful metaphor : In games such as baseball, he argues, kids don't learn to play by spending a year throwing, a year catching, and a year batting; instead, they "play the whole game at the junior level" from the get-go. Kids can — and should — also practice the game's indi- vidual parts, but they need to know how the parts connect to create the game as a whole. Without this, the whole endeavor will feel meaningless. Play the Whole Game Key strategies to promote deeper learning in high school By Sarah Fine and Jal Mehta NeONBRAND on Unsplash " Ultimately you're trying to build a community, a team, or even a family: a group of people who care about each other and work to help each other accomplish their goals." 52 Teaching & Learning

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