Students sit at desks in a classroom

School district leaders from across the Commonwealth joined virtually on July 18 to share their journeys with deeper learning, presenting their work in creating authentic, meaningful learning for all students.

“Deeper learning experiences go beyond just memorization or learning to do a repetitive task and require us to demonstrate a higher-level set of skills,” said Jason E. Glass, Kentucky’s education commissioner.

Deeper learning is one of the three big ideas behind United We Learn, Kentuckians’ vision for the future of education in the Commonwealth. It focuses on collaborating with communities to solve problems, innovating to assess skills in new ways, and more.

“These kinds of vibrant student experiences spark curiosity, motivation and engagement, while cultivating enthusiasm for lifelong learning,” Glass said.

Collaboration and Structure

Michelle Gross, a mathematics teacher in Spencer County, is working to promote students’ acquisition of high-level skills. She said she focuses on building personal relationships with students to create a collaborative, structured classroom with rubrics.

“I put that structure in place at the very beginning, so they know what that expectation is,” Gross said. “I want to be able to provide my students with specific feedback.”

By using the structure of rubrics to facilitate student-led learning, providing specific feedback based upon those and focusing on her role as a learning mentor, Gross builds authentic relationships with her students.

Gross said her classroom provides students with a personalized environment that allows them to work collaboratively while exploring class content. For students in rural Spencer County, she infuses topics such as fishing, hunting and other agricultural interests, along with practical topics.

She mentioned a project in which students decide if their dream design is a tiny house, a mansion or something in between. Students design their dream house and learn about the salaries required to afford a mortgage, connecting in-class topics with real-world experiences.

Deeper Learning Project

The exhibition was part of the Deeper Learning Grant, which was funded by $24 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding given by the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) to the Kentucky Association of Educational Cooperatives (KAEC) to support deeper learning.

Deeper learning is a key focus of educational cooperatives, organizations providing comprehensive educational services and programs to support member districts and their schools’ improvement efforts.

Robb Smith, the KAEC’s director of deeper learning, said the cooperatives wanted to lead on implementing United We Learn, Kentuckians’ vision for the future of public education in the state.

The Kentucky Association of Educational Cooperatives supports eight regional educational cooperatives across Kentucky:

  • Central Kentucky Educational Cooperative (CKEC);
  • Green River Regional Educational Cooperative (GRREC);
  • Kentucky Educational Development Corporation (KEDC);
  • Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC);
  • Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Educational Services (NKCES);
  • Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative (OVEC);
  • Southeast/South Central Education Cooperative (SESC); and
  • West Kentucky Educational Cooperative (WKEC).

According to Lu S. Young, chair of the Kentucky Board of Education, deeper learning allows educators to prepare young people for the types of experiences they will have throughout their lives.

“Our kids are growing up in a globally connected world,” Young said. “This is a brave new world, and we need a bold new future.”

Relationships and Language

Karson Hendrickson is a Marshall County educator focusing on productive struggle. She uses the development of relationships, language, undoing of bad habits and design to promote vibrant learning experiences among her students.

“Relationships are everything,” she said. “Nobody wants to struggle alone.”

Hendrickson said when teachers engage students in difficult tasks, they must ensure they have a person they can fall back on.

She said productive struggle in the classroom allows students to engage with concepts authentically and grow through their learning. This authentic bond with classroom concepts ultimately prepares them for life as adults. She also said working on students’ difficulties allows educators to provide meaningful guidance.

“If we’ve got students to confusion, we know we’re going to teach them something,” she said.

Like Gross, Hendrickson continues to grow as a teacher through deeper learning.

“When you do know better, you’ve got to try to do better,” she said.

Smith said the event was focused on doing just that.

“Over my 28-year career, I’ve had the privilege of working alongside educators who dreamed about school looking differently. What I saw and heard today is that change. It is happening,” he said. “The power of synergy was on full display today.  From the cooperatives to the classrooms, and along with our partners from KDE and higher education, the deeper learning movement is thriving in Kentucky.”

To learn more about the event and KAEC’s work around deeper learning, visit the Kentucky Association of Educational Cooperative’s website.