The Plastic Brain

Notes on “New Pedagogies for Deep Learning” (Part 2)

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This post follows on from Part 1.

Implementation Framework

The second part of the whitepaper focusses on implementation. The plan is laid out in four consecutive stages:

  1. Common Goals:“The framework is premised upon purposeful learning by doing, beginning with a small number of ambitious goals”
  2. Common Measures and Tools:“design a set of common measures and tools to be used across school clusters”
  3. Identify and Share Best Work: “identify and share the best cases of new pedagogies and deep learning work”
  4. Collective Capacity-Building:“teachers to analyze, share and reflect on the best exemplars for both student work and learning activities as a key part of collective capacity-building efforts”

Supported by a Technology Platform

The words “common” and “collective” above are telling. This approach seeks to join numerous stakeholders, and create opportunities for discussion and dialogue. Usual mechanisms of communication would be fragmented (like email) or infrequent (like conferences and symposia). Instead, the aim here is to produce a technology platform which can facilitate the networked, connected and collective interactions required of a project of this nature.

The technology platform will be a scalable online system that includes:

  •  Collection and sharing of student work
  •  Collection and sharing of teachers’ learning activity designs
  •  Online surveys of student, teacher, school leaders and parents’ perceptions, practices, resources and relationships (learning conditions).
  •  Data collection on uses of technology for teaching and learning
  •  Direct online assessments of students’ learning progressions
  •  Reporting engine, providing feedback reports on all of the above inputs

Exemplary Student Work

I find this idea of putting exemplary student work as one of the cornerstones of the project to be unexpected, yet very intriguing. Usually, such programs focus on teacher best practice. However, why not look one step further to student outcomes? Not only would exemplary student work stand on its own, but teacher best practice would shine through in the design of the tasks and then resulting learning.

We will seek to identify best-case examples of student work, of learning designs that prompt such work, and then the school and system learning conditions that nurture and cultivate such learning work.

Capacity Building

Capacity building is a very hot concept in education. I think it is in favour due to the fact that it goes beyond knowledge and even skills. It speaks to a desire to produce learning outcomes which provide intellectual opportunities to learners. Once you have “built capacity” in your students or staff, you can expect to see them take new steps and enter unchartered territory. The authors outline their capacity building program as follows:

Capacity-building programs will include many elements:

  •  Analysis of evidence on learning work (learning activities and student work codes) and learning conditions (practices, perceptions, engagement), using this do identify specific needs
  •  Student and teacher exposure to exemplars, demonstrations and samples of deep learning, new pedagogies, new assessments and new technologies
  •  Identification and development of programs and models relevant to the specific needs of individual schools or clusters. This might involve participation in a cross-cluster experimentation “hubs” focused on particular aspects of pedagogy, learning conditions, technology or policy.
  •  Collaborative capacity-building processes within and across clusters to support the adoption of new models, including supports such as teacher networks, collaboration summits, professional and leadership development, tools, and continuous measurement.

Who will do the Work?

It seems apparent that at the core of this project are a group of professionals funded by grants and/or corporate backing. However, the reach of the scheme is great, and will rely on voluntary contributions from stakeholders.

The partnership will seek to recognize and engage these individuals [teachers and students] as “activators” of new pedagogies and deep learning within and across clusters.

As a teacher who says ‘yes’ to (arguably) too many programs, I am aware of the time these can take. However, I also know that this time is an investment, which is richly rewarded by one’s own learning, and the benefits which can flow to colleagues and students.

The Invitation

The whitepaper finishes with the following invitation:

The world is changing and teaching and learning are changing with it. This paper has defined a vision and a plan of action. Success will depend on partners truly committing to this work to mobilize and dramatically expand
new pedagogies and deep learning on the ground. We invite all who might be interested in participating in this endeavor to contact us at

The Verdict

I’ll sum up with two possibly conflicting statements: 1) I admire the approach, and think it has a lot going for it, 2) I am not going to sign up.

I find it hard to articulate why I don’t want to be directly involved – probably because it is a mixture of reasons. Is it because the project has big corporate sponsors? It is because it seems too big, too impersonal? Is it just because I have enough going on already?

Despite all of that I do support these kinds of initiatives, and will be keen to see what they can develop. Who knows, maybe I’ll jump on the bandwagon once it starts rolling…


Author: Rogan Tinsley

Biology, science and maths teacher with a PhD in Neuroscience and passion for education.

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