The inspirational tone Martinez and McGrath (The Collaborative Advantage) take in their presentation of the Alliance for Excellent Education’s Deeper Learning initiative masks a reliance on qualitative rather than quantitative evidence. Deeper Learning, as defined by the authors, develops “the single most important ability students should possess: the capacity for learning how to learn.” Anecdotal examples from schools using project-based learning, co-opted here under the Deeper Learning umbrella, demonstrate the advantages of combining experiential education with traditional methods, but the sample group is unrepresentative. Of the eight schools mentioned, half are charter or magnet schools, and all are substantially smaller than average. While the fewer than 300 students at Portland, Maine’s Casco Bay High School no doubt love the experience of camping in yurts and kayaking with teachers, would that be realistic for a high school serving 4,000 students? Evidence of academic performance and college achievement would have been helpful in determining whether, once students learned how to learn, lasting knowledge was the result. (June)
Praise for Deeper Learning:
"A quick and lively read, with well-told anecdotes . . . The book delivers what it promises: inspiring stories that show you what is possible."
"It is a fast read and will interest educators who want to produce self-motivated, passionate learners with a goal that looks beyond passing tomorrow's quiz."
"Communities across the nation must use the principles outlined in this book to fundamentally transform schools."
Warren Simmons, executive director, Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University
"The best book on education I have read in 2014 . . . I will be sharing this with every educator that I know."
Aaron Maurer, Iowa Teacher of the Year Finalist, Bettendorf Schools
"What do 'reinvented' schools look likeschools that prepare all students for college and for an innovation economy? This fascinating series of portraits offers a road map for the future of education. Deeper Learning is a wonderful book that should be read by every educator, parent, and policy maker."
Tony Wagner, Harvard University, and author of Creating Innovators and The Global Achievement Gap
"Deeper Learning is both informed and informative. From California to Maine, eight exemplary public schools show us how teachers and principals are finding creative ways to impact the learning and life chances of high school youth. This book is a clarion call to celebrate the imagination and commitment of educators in these and other stellar public schools."
Mary Brabeck, Gale and Ira Drukier Dean, NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development
"This compelling book reveals how eight schools are navigating the transition from industrial-era teaching to twenty-first-century learning. A rare blend of inspiration and practical action."
Tom Carroll, president emeritus, National Commission on Teaching and America's Future
"Deeper Learning is a refreshing reminder that the best schools are defined by a commitment to motivating, challenging, and connecting students to their own lives and their own learning."
Elena Silva, senior associate, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
The authors contend that learning how to learn is the most essential skill for 21st-century students."Deeper Learning" is the term education advisers Martinez and McGrath (The Collaborative Advantage: Lessons from K-16 Educational Reform, 2005, etc.) use to describe the educational goals they advocate. "Deeper Learning," they write, "is the process of preparing and empowering students to master essential academic content, think critically and solve complex problems, work collaboratively, communicate effectively, have an academic mindset, and be self-directed." It's hard to imagine any school system arguing against these laudable aims, but the authors assert that most American schools fall short of achieving them. Setting Common Core State Standards, they believe, is a step in the right direction, but implementing those standards has been challenging, and they serve as only "one element" in getting students to acquire the knowledge and skills they need. The authors cite eight schools that have met the goals of Deeper Learning, including the Avalon Charter School in St. Paul, Minnesota; Impact Academy of Arts & Technology, a charter high school in Hayward, California; Science Leadership Academy, a magnet high school in Philadelphia; and High Tech High, a charter school in San Diego. These schools represent diverse ethnic and economic populations but are "slightly smaller than the norm" for American high schools. Indeed, with all having fewer than 600 students, the schools selected are far smaller than high schools in many U.S. cities, which serve thousands. Six chapters show how each school meets Deeper Learning goals: establishing collaborative learning communities; fostering students' self-direction; contextualizing and integrating subjects; taking education outside of the school and into the community; motivating students to discover their own interests; and incorporating technology to enhance learning.The anecdotes are uplifting, but the authors are not persuasive about the ease of adapting these schools' strategies to larger, financially strapped settings.
The Deeper Learning (DL) movement stresses student-directed, collaborative work, critical thinking, mastery of essential content, effective communication, and problem-solving skills over education delivery methods used in schools today, which are portrayed as outdated, passive, and boring. Martinez (educational researcher and strategist) and McGrath (sociology, Community Coll. of Philadelphia; coauthor, The Collaborative Advantage: Lessons from K-16 Educational Reform) highlight eight public secondary schools, each with significant minority enrollments and free and reduced-price lunch populations, to show the DL principles in action. Flexible schedules, independent student work time, less teacher oversight, mentoring, networking with outside experts, and finding hooks that draw students into their own educational process are all discussed. One chapter speaks to technology, which is deemed an essential tool that ideally adds to, rather than interferes with, the educational process. VERDICT This book offers a clear introduction to DL ideas and methods and the motivation behind them. It is a fast read and will interest educators who want to produce self-motivated, passionate learners with a goal that looks beyond passing tomorrow's quiz.—Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley Sch., Fort Worth, TX