Saturday, April 9, 2011

Learning in Depth

Learning in Depth
In a recent post on cultureofyes, Chris Kennedy wrote about Kieran Egan's new book, Learning in Depth. The idea of studying an assigned topic throughout a child's elementary and secondary education is an appealing one for me. It is particularly resonant with me because it sounds like it has some similarities to aspects of a Montessori education (both my children attend our local Montessori program). In addition, I constantly hear teachers talk about the difficulties of addressing the minutae of hundreds of government mandated learning outcomes. So, what purpose does learning something in depth serve? Or in Egan's words, “what is the point of teaching a curriculum crammed with the wonders of human discoveries and inventions when we see most students come out of our schooling system recalling little of this knowledge and with virtually no sense of its wonder?”

In answer, here are 7 of the reasons he gives in support of what deep knowledge does for the mind:

  1. Having expertise in a topic and learning how knowledge works helps a student learn about how knowledge works in all areas.

  2. Learning, for its own sake, is pleasurable.

  3. Learning in depth stimulates the imagination; we cannot be imaginative about what we do not know.

  4. Project based learning engages a student in a purposeful social activity, enriching their experience and understanding of moral and deomocratic life.

  5. Deep learning gives one a greater insight into themselves, and concommitant wisdom.

  6. Learning in depth gives one a sense of how little they actually know, and “humility before the world of knowledge.”

  7. There is value to including strategies from both oral and literate cultures in our “cognitive tool kits.”

Learning is certainly a pleasurable pursuit for me: K-12 education; several university degrees; career as an educator; re-learning again through my own children's education. Furthermore, I am fired up by the exchanges I read on Twitter, my favourite blogs, and carry with me to work each day. The process of engaging in a Professional Learning Network (PLN) has revived my desire to engage with my colleagues and to broaden my horizons. Now, I am being prodded in a new direction, and challenged to “go deep with one thing”. (Thanks cultureofyes Chris!)

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