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Experts agree that education should aim for deeper understanding, not just memorization, so students can apply their learning in life beyond school.

Source: The National Academy of Sciences

Young people today need to learn demanding content in the core academic disciplines. Equally important, they must learn to use that content in class to discover its deeper meaning and its application in their daily lives. Deeper learning is different from conventional learning. The core distinction lies in the difference between knowing (i.e., acquiring facts and mastering subject matter) and understanding (i.e., internalizing knowledge so it can be applied in new and unexpected situations).

A student may be able to figure out the answer to a math problem. But does he or she understand the logic behind the process of solving it—and how those concepts and principles can be applied to dozens of other problems, connect to other disciplines, and inform that student’s understanding of the world and curiosity about how it works?

Rigor and depth of learning are achieved when teachers integrate new learning methods and tools into their curriculum thoughtfully and mindfully, to meet students’ needs and interests. Even students who struggle with grade-level material need to experience challenging, relevant, age-appropriate content that expands their horizons and opens new perspectives on their history and culture.

The ability to transfer knowledge to the real world is vitally important today. As Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe say in “Understanding by Design,” transferring knowledge effectively involves “the capacity to take what we know and use it creatively, flexibly, fluently, in different settings or problems, on our own.” Schools need to provide experiences that develop the practice of reflexively and independently transferring knowledge to real-world contexts, in ways that are relevant to students’ own experiences, cultures, and communities.

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