Learning can occur anywhere, whether in a classroom, within a virtual environment, or at a library.
Learning can vary—from substantive to superficial. This article is supposed to help the many teachers across the country who are looking for ways to make hybrid and online learning less superficial and more substantive.
In it, we’ll discuss three specific and practical strategies that promote deep learning in hybrid and virtual settings (and traditional classrooms, too).
What Is Deep Learning?
A process that enables students to have a good understanding of essential ideas and procedures while being able to transfer the knowledge acquired.
Make Every Unit a ‘Study In’ a Big Idea
Covering every bit of the content at the expense of giving students time to process and think about the material has always been an unproductive strategy for promoting deep learning because there’s no use in getting through the content if students aren’t getting it in the first place.
Trying to ‘cover’ too much content often yields superficial results as well as disconnected learning that does not last.
The realities of hybrid and online learning, with their reduced instructional time further compounds this issue.
So, now is the ideal time to incorporate larger concepts and themes into the curriculum.
Infusing this shift will promote conceptual thinking as the big ideas will be kept in front and center of both the teachers’ and students’ minds.
Use Essential Questions to Promote Exploration of Big Ideas
Another way to ensure learning is focused on big ideas is by framing lessons units around Essential Questions.
These are thought-provoking and open-ended questions that engage students in uncovering and exploring ‘big ideas’.
These questions are designed to not just yield a single, ‘correct’ answer, but to also engage students in making meaning by stimulating thinking, sparking debate and discussion and raising additional questions for more inquiry.
Begin Units with Inductive Learning
When students actively ‘construct’ meaning of transferable and abstract ideas and processes, deep learning occurs.
In essence, they are forming principles and concepts derived from specific examples. Inductive learning is a powerful strategy for getting students engaged in this kind of meaning-making, based on the pioneering work of Hilda Taba.
‘A set of words’ is presented to the students—these words could be related to a reading, lesson, or unit they are about to take. For instance, young students who are about to learn about the Ancient Egyptians might be presented with these set of words:
Students review the terms, look up any words that seem unfamiliar and then group them together based on common characteristics and then, they name the group.
The groups are used to make predictions about the learning to come. For instance, students’ predictions may look like these: “The Egyptians believed in many gods” and “there were Egyptian doctors who used tools and plants to help sick people.”
As students learn more, they test and refine their predictions. For example, students collect evidence from readings during the Ancient Egypt lesson and as they progress through the unit, they keep looking for any information that challenges or confirms their predictions.
This stage of evidence-gathering turns the lesson into an inquiry and keeps the learning active, thereby addressing one of the biggest challenges of online learning.
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