Deep Learning is Hard Work

Wednesday 23 Oct

A study released by Harvard University last month found that, while students felt they learned more in a traditional learning environment, they actually learned more when engaged in an active learning classroom.

The fact that students learn more in an active learning classroom has been proven over and over again in the world of educational research. It’s not new. What’s important from this recent study, however, is the perception of students.

Harvard University’s Director of Science Teaching and Learning, Louis Deslauriers writes, ‘Deep learning is hard work. The effort involved in active learning can be misinterpreted as a sign of poor learning… On the other hand, a superstar lecturer can explain things in such a way as to make students feel like they are learning more than they actually are.’

The traditional classroom typically consisted of a teacher delivering content. Students would kick back while the information was funnelled into them, and then they might complete some worksheet-style tasks that mimic what the teacher had demonstrated. It was a pretty easy gig for students, there wasn’t a great deal of thinking required and students would often unintentionally discard content from their memory soon after a test or exam, thereby rendering the ‘learning’ wasted.

A contemporary active learning classroom, however, requires students to figure things out for themselves. It’s hard work, it requires significant engagement, and it often means there will be mistakes made along the way. But years of research show that, when a student goes through the process of unearthing a solution themselves, they not only develop critical thinking, adaptability, tenacity and resilience, but the solution tends to stick because the effort exerted and the emotions that accompany triumph become fixed in their memory.

At Living Faith our goal is not to have students go home at the end of every day saying, for example, ‘Today’s school work was easy.’ This would be a failure on our part to provide a program that is appropriately challenging and that stimulates learning. Our desire is that students go home most days saying, for example, ‘Today’s learning was interesting,’ or, ‘Today’s learning was tricky, but I had a go,’ or ‘Today’s learning was tough and I made a few mistakes, yet I persisted and came up with a solution.’

The more you struggle and even fail whileyou’re trying to master new information, the better you’re likely to recall and apply that information later. - Annie Murphy Paul

An active learning classroom is filled with deep learning and engaged students. It is hard work and it comes with incredible long-term rewards.

- Jane Mueller, Principal