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Volume 29, Number 2
March/April 2013

Diving into Deeper Learning

Schools gear up to promote thinking skills


Four years ago, Mamadou Ba (a pseudonym) came to the United States from Senegal, knowing no English, and enrolled in a New York City middle school. Two years later, as a student at International High School at Prospect Heights in Brooklyn, he completed a project with a group of classmates, all recent immigrants, on industrial pollution and presented his findings, in English, to professors at Columbia University. A year later, working at an internship at the Brooklyn Museum, he and several peers developed a digital guide to the museum’s African art collection.

Now Mamadou is a senior and is preparing to go to college—a standout success in a state where only 46 percent of English-language learners graduate from high school.

Both Mamadou and his principal, Nedda ­DeCastro, say he is ready for college in large part because of International’s emphasis on “deeper learning”—skills like critical thinking, communicating, and problem solving—in addition to the basic skills measured by state tests. It is a “fallacy” that her school’s population of recent immigrants should learn basic skills before engaging in deeper learning, says ­DeCastro. “It takes time for kids to learn a second language,” she says, “but if you talk to them in baby talk all the time, they’ll never learn.”

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

Alliance for Excellent Education Deeper Learning:

B. Chow. “The Quest for ‘Deeper Learning.’” Education Week 30, no. 6 (2010): 22–24.

J. Mehta and S. Fine. “Teaching Differently . . . Learning Deeply.” Kappan 94, no. 2 (2012): 31–35.

J. W. Pellegrino and M. L. Hilton, eds.: Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowl­edge and Skills in the 21st Century. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2012.

A Time for Deeper Learning. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education, 2011.