During the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE’s) Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council meeting on Dec. 13, students spoke about their experiences with deeper learning and provided feedback to the department on those experiences.
The focus on deeper learning is a part of United We Learn, Kentuckian’s vision for the future of public education. The vision was developed after listening to Kentuckians from all parts of the Commonwealth and represents what they said they wanted for their schools. One major component of that vision is to create “vibrant learning experiences for every student.”
Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass told students “vibrant learning experiences” also can be called “deeper learning.” Though often asked for a definition, Glass said the department has shied away from laying out an official definition of “deeper learning” because it can take on several forms. He invited students to explore the question of what deeper learning means to them.
Peter Johnson, a 10th-grade student at Henry Clay High School (Fayette County), said he believes deeper learning can’t be forced.
“We have to create an environment in which deeper learning can occur and we can’t just teach deeper learning,” he said. “We need to create a place where students and teachers can have experiences that are categorized as deeper learning.”
Sophia Retone, a senior at Atherton High School (Jefferson County), said “with deeper learning, it’s important to not rush through things, but give every topic the time it deserves.”
“Some of the best conversations I’ve had in school were Socratics that weren’t structured or led by a teacher,” she said. “Students just got to talk about the material we read and lead that conversation into what they thought was interesting to explore. I think having authority over what you’re learning and its path gives it more depth.”
Several students spoke about examples of deeper learning in their classrooms, from project-based learning to simulations.
Senior Nyla Johnson said her marketing class at Eastern High School (Jefferson County) participated in deeper learning when, instead of doing a regular project, students used marketing techniques to promote a spirit night for a student diagnosed with cancer.
“We had to go to places in the community and find people to sponsor [the event],” she said.
Students also agreed with Glass’ comments on how deeper learning can take place outside of the classroom, ranging from sports to extracurriculars.
“Many examples of deep learning for me originate from my soccer team,” said Vijaykumar Karthikeyan, an 11th-grade student at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School (Fayette County). “I have learned many social lessons such as teamwork and patience, but I have also learned many lessons which relate to science and math. Just understanding the physics of the ball and anticipating how others on my team play has allowed me to be both a better player on and off the field.”
During the meeting, students also heard an update on the Kentucky United We Learn Council. Three students on the Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council participate in the Kentucky United We Learn Council.