The Shape of Deeper Learning: Strategies, Structures, and Cultures in Deeper Learning Network High Schools. Findings from the Study of Deeper Learning Opportunities and Outcomes: Report 1Report as inadecuate

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American Institutes for Research

The "Study of Deeper Learning: Opportunities and Outcomes"--funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation--is a proof-of-concept study, the purpose of which was to determine whether students attending high schools with a mature and at least moderately well implemented approach to promoting deeper learning actually experienced greater deeper learning opportunities and outcomes than would have been likely had they not attended these schools. In this report--our first in a series of three--we provide a picture of the strategies and supporting structures in our study sample of schools. This analysis focuses on the strategies implemented in 19 high schools across 10 school networks participating in the Foundation's Deeper Learning Community of Practice. We also include some comparative information collected from 11 comparison high schools. While we collected a wide range of data for this study, the analysis in this first report relies primarily on qualitative data from interviews and focus groups with school administrators, teachers, students, and network leaders and support providers, supplemented with relevant data from a survey of teachers in both network and comparison schools. Key findings include the following: 1. Across the three deeper learning domains, sampled network schools used a range of strategies to develop deeper learning competencies--most commonly project-based learning, internship opportunities, collaborative group work, and longer term cumulative assessments. • In the cognitive domain, all but one network school (18 of 19) employed project-based learning (PBL) to some degree to develop mastery of core academic content knowledge and critical thinking skills. PBL was integral to daily instruction in slightly over a third of these schools and used more sporadically in others. • Also in the cognitive domain, three quarters of the network schools (14 of 19) provided connections to the real world through internship opportunities for students. At two schools, internships were considered central to learning and occurred two or three days per week across all four years. The remaining 12 schools incorporated internships for a portion of students at some point in their school career to provide career-related experience, boost life skills, or help with the transition from high school to college and careers. • In the interpersonal domain, collaboration and communication skill development was an explicit goal reported by staff at a majority of network schools (11 of 19), which they addressed through collaborative group work and longer term assessments (such as portfolios and exhibitions, where students had to present and defend their work). • In the intrapersonal domain, almost half of the network schools (9 of 19) reported having explicit goals related to intrapersonal competencies (learning how to learn and academic mindsets) for students and they used a variety of strategies to encourage the development of these skills, including study groups and student participation in decision making. Three schools focused on individualized learning as a way to develop independent learning and self-management skills. 2. Most network schools supported the implementation of instructional approaches aligned with deeper learning through the development of specific structural and cultural elements, including advisory classes (16 schools), alternative scheduling (14 schools), and personalized learning environments (all schools). However, these structures and cultures looked different across the schools. For example, advisory classes had different numbers of students (from 15 to 30 students), ran for different amounts of time (between 30 and 60 minutes), and happened with different frequencies (from every day to once or twice a week), depending on the school. 3. Comparisons between the network and non-network school principal interview data suggest that the network schools employed strategies to foster the deeper learning competencies to a greater extent than did the non-network schools, particularly in the areas of project-based learning, internship opportunities, collaborative group work, longer term cumulative assessments, and development of intrapersonal skills. Network schools also employed advisory classes and alternative scheduling to a higher degree than the non-network schools. [See: Report 2 at ED553361; and Report 3 at ED553364.]

Descriptors: Transformative Learning, Critical Thinking, High School Students, Outcomes of Education, Academic Achievement, Educational Strategies, Communities of Practice, Comparative Analysis, Qualitative Research, Interviews, Focus Groups, Administrators, Secondary School Teachers, Teacher Surveys, Educational Assessment, Active Learning, Student Projects, Internship Programs, Cooperative Learning, Student Attitudes, Communication Skills, Curriculum Development, Individualized Instruction

American Institutes for Research. 1000 Thomas Jefferson Street NW, Washington, DC 20007. Tel: 202-403-5000; Fax: 202-403-5001; e-mail: inquiry[at]; Web site:

Author: Huberman, Mette; Bitter, Catherine; Anthony, Jennifer; O-Day, Jennifer


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