Review: Towards a New End: New Pedagogies for Deep Learning

The whitepaper, originally published in 2013, makes the case for radical education reform and introduces several guiding principles for action. It is commissioned by an education partnership consisting of private companies like Pearson and Microsoft.

According to the authors, change is necessary because the current education system bores students and frustrates teachers. They cite statistics that show that less than 40% of upper secondary students are intellectually engaged at school and only 38% of teachers (USA) are satisfied with their job.

The article presents the term “deep learning” which should help students live healthy, happy lives, and “flourish” in their world. Some of these “deep learning skills” sound rather contemporary: critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. Others such as character education and citizenship could have been taken from a communists central committee brochure.

The article’s strongest part is between pages 8 and 17, starting with “Measures”. The need for measuring skill development sounds obvious, yet it remains one of the most underdeveloped areas in contemporary education. The article makes the case for using newly developed, ICT-based tools for testing and developing new methods of assessments.

Next comes a proposal to redefine the role of teachers as “designer of learning experiences” and as “partners in learning with students”. According to the authors, content delivery should be taken over by digital resources and teachers should help to create challenging learning projects based on student’s prior experiences. Teachers should also invest more time in becoming “learning partners” for students.

The article also addresses the problem of low student engagement. The proposed solution is to let students co-create knowledge and have more “real-world problem-solving experiences”. Formal learning needs to have ‘meaning’ beyond just passing exams. Students will be much more motivated to learn if they can use what they learned in their daily lives.

Lastly, the authors point out that education technology failed to fulfil expectations so far because it was used to support outdated 20th-century teaching. Learning outcomes can only be improved if we implement completely new pedagogical models. It makes little sense to blame technology for the failures of an outdated system.

Note for the busy reader:read the introduction, then jump to pages 8-17, skip the rest.

Verdict: Interesting thoughts on the importance of measurement, new roles for teachers, real-life relevance of formal learning, and the promise as well as limitation of learning technology.

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