Key Culture Premises

Key Culture Premises of Deeper Learning in SFUSD

Student-Centered Instruction

Student-centered instruction iconWe must choose depth: “The tension is inescapable, and the choice is unavoidable: go with depth...Decades of research bear this out: when deep, conceptual understanding is attained, learning is enduring, flexible, and real....We must rid ourselves of any residual notions that education is the transmission of needed knowledge. Rather, we are teaching skills, and one skill most generally: how to ride a tsunami of knowledge whose future content we can’t even begin to imagine.”  - Transforming Schools, p. 8-9

What Student-Centered Instruction Looks Like 

photo of classroomStudents have opportunities to explore content with depth, building knowledge in order to apply, transfer and create with that knowledge. Students learn how to learn, exercising agency to make choices best suited for their own learning style. Students develop the metacognition, schema, and thinking skills to tackle any developmentally appropriate task or challenge.

teacher and studentsTeachers choose depth over breadth - “Teach less, learn more.” Rather than a goal of “coverage” which often equates to surface understanding and knowledge easily forgotten, educators aim for deep understanding of less content/knowledge - which research demonstrates builds schema and the thinking skills to transfer that learning to new and novel contexts. Teachers narrow the scope of explicit knowledge instruction and tasks of recall, and widen the scope of meaning-making, applying, evaluating, and creating with that knowledge. Teachers conceptualize content knowledge as vitally important - and “always a means to the end of some underlying, conceptual understanding.”

photo of learningClassroom Community: Students collaborate to apply and transfer learning and create something that did not exist before. Students recognize the need for group roles, interdependence, and collective thinking in order to do their best work.

Site Leader: Site leaders choose depth over breadth, photo of schoolnarrowing school priorities and professional learning goals to 1-3 desired outcomes. Site systems, structures and professional learning models work harmoniously toward those outcomes, with clear benchmarks in place and attainable action steps outlined. Site leaders support educators to make thoughtful choices toward depth by articulating cohesive vertical plans and what is tight vs loose, and by enabling the structures and conditions necessary for educators to succeed.

Central Office: Central leaders choose depth over breadth, narrowing district priorities and professional learning goals to 1-3 desired outcomes. Central systems, structures and professional learning models work harmoniously toward those outcomes, with clear benchmarks in place and attainable action steps outlined. Central leaders support sites to make thoughtful choices toward depth by articulating cohesive vertical plans and what is tight vs loose, and by enabling the structures and conditions necessary for sites to succeed.

 

Student-Centered Instruction in Action

Learning by Doing

learning by doing icon“...many of our oldest traditions of learning, particularly learning by doing and apprenticeship, remain the most robust ways to induct a learner into the increasing complexity and depth of a field.” - “The Deeper Learning Dozen”, p. 6

 

What Learning by Doing Looks Like

photo of classroomStudents explore driving questions, challenges, problems, and scenarios; engage in sustained inquiry; and learn through their own agency and investigation.

Teachers design experiences in which students discover by doing, rather than being told. Teachers organize learning through driving questions, plan for the kinds of questions to ask students to drive learning, and serve as a neutral facilitator when students answer questions (use questions to drive class thinking and discussion, rather than answer student questions or acknowledge questions as right or wrong). Teachers utilize the city as a classroom. Teachers seek to apprentice students to their fields: Students cannot simply learn about a discipline, they must learn the structure of how that discipline organizes its knowledge, and be apprenticed cognitively and literally into the discipline itself. “Through the process of observation, modeling, and emulation, one is gradually apprenticed into understanding and skills in the domain...moving from a peripheral participant to a more central one.” (p. 5, “The Why, What, Where and How of Deeper Learning in American Secondary Schools”)

photo of classroomClassroom Community: Questions not answers guide the collective learning of the class. Students engage together in the authentic complexities of the field of study.

Photo of SchoolSite leaders design experiential learning opportunities for staff, to model best practices and engage staff in learning by doing. Professional learning is inquiry-based, launched through authentic driving questions and committed to ongoing experimentation within and examination of classroom practice. Site leaders support educators to design, logistically organize, and implement inquiry-based and experiential experiences and learning arcs for students.

Photo of EducatorsCentral office leaders design experiential learning opportunities for site staff, to model best practices and engage site staff in learning by doing. Professional learning is inquiry-based, launched through authentic driving questions and committed to ongoing experimentation within and examination of site practice. Central leaders support site educators to design, logistically organize, and implement inquiry-based and experiential experiences and learning arcs for students - by highlighting successful models, supporting with strategic resources and tools, and enabling the structures and conditions necessary for sites to succeed.

 

Learning by Doing in Action

Depth over Breadth

IconWe must choose depth: “The tension is inescapable, and the choice is unavoidable: go with depth...Decades of research bear this out: when deep, conceptual understanding is attained, learning is enduring, flexible, and real....We must rid ourselves of any residual notions that education is the transmission of needed knowledge. Rather, we are teaching skills, and one skill most generally: how to ride a tsunami of knowledge whose future content we can’t even begin to imagine.”  - Transforming Schools, p. 8-9

What Depth Over Breadth Looks Like

photo of studentsStudents have opportunities to explore content with depth, building knowledge in order to apply, transfer and create with that knowledge. Students learn how to learn, exercising agency to make choices best suited for their own learning style. Students develop the metacognition, schema, and thinking skills to tackle any developmentally appropriate task or challenge.

Teachers choose depth over breadth - “Teach less, learn more.” Rather than a goal of “coverage” which often equates to surface understanding and knowledge easily forgotten, educators aim for deep understanding of less content/knowledge - which research demonstrates builds schema and the thinking skills to transfer that learning to new and novel contexts. Teachers narrow the scope of explicit knowledge instruction and tasks of recall, and widen the scope of meaning-making, applying, evaluating, and creating with that knowledge. Teachers conceptualize content knowledge as vitally important - and “always a means to the end of some underlying, conceptual understanding.”

photo of classroomClassroom Community: Students collaborate to apply and transfer learning and create something that did not exist before. Students recognize the need for group roles, interdependence, and collective thinking in order to do their best work.

photo of schoolSite Leaders choose depth over breadth, narrowing school priorities and professional learning goals to 1-3 desired outcomes. Site systems, structures and professional learning models work harmoniously toward those outcomes, with clear benchmarks in place and attainable action steps outlined. Site leaders support educators to make thoughtful choices toward depth by articulating cohesive vertical plans and what is tight vs loose, and by enabling the structures and conditions necessary for educators to succeed.

Central leaders choose depth over breadth, narrowing district priorities and professional learning goals to 1-3 desired outcomes. Central systems, structures and professional learning models work harmoniously toward those outcomes, with clear benchmarks in place and attainable action steps outlined. Central leaders support sites to make thoughtful choices toward depth by articulating cohesive vertical plans and what is tight vs loose, and by enabling the structures and conditions necessary for sites to succeed.

Depth over Breadth in Action

Lengthy Arcs of Learning

photo of studentsPowerful learning moments, while essential for Deeper Learning, do not equate to Deeper Learning.  Powerful learning can happen in an hour, in a particular classroom moment. Deeper learning, however, requires a lengthier trajectory - “arcs of learning that develop over time.” - In Search of Deeper Learning, p. 16

What Lengthy Arcs of Learning Look Like 

photo of studentsStudents experience ongoing powerful learning moments, organized within a greater journey or acr of learning, toward a compelling purpose - a purpose that matters in the present. This longevity is what enables mastery and understanding, thus enabling student pride in and ownership of learning.

Teachers: To provide opportunities for students to demonstrate understanding and create work that matters, teachers backwards plan student learning trajectories toward a purposeful end goal. Throughout the course of study, cumulative learning enables increasing depth of understanding and the ability to apply learning. Teachers focus both on the arc of learning (driving/essential question, challenge, sustained inquiry, benchmarks, final product, etc.) and on the daily practices that enable powerful learning moments to occur throughout the journey.

photo of studentsClassroom Community: Students work both collaboratively and independently toward a collective challenge, drawing on the expertise and thinking of their peers and bringing their own expertise and thinking to the group.

Photo of EducatorsSite leaders backwards plan adult learning trajectories that build toward a purposeful end goal in which educators have the opportunity to both demonstrate understanding and create work that matters. Site leaders create the conditions, structures, and supports to enable lengthy arcs of learning for students within the school (within classrooms, vertically, interdisciplinary/horizontally, and whole school).

Central leaders backwards plan adult learning trajectories that build toward a purposeful end goal in which site educators have the opportunity to both demonstrate understanding and create work that matters. Central leaders create the conditions, structures, and supports to enable lengthy arcs of learning for adults and students within schools.

Lengthy Arc of Learning in Action

Symmetry Between Adults & Students

Symmetry: Adults & Students IconStudent culture reflects staff culture. We cannot succeed unless all levels of the SFUSD system are aligned - in talk and in action. “...one part of a system cannot reach its potential if it is not working in harmony with other parts of the whole. If, for example, it is the mission of a school to teach students how to collaborate productively, then teachers and leaders must themselves be working to collaborate productively… Educational organizations cannot deepen learning without striving to be... “consistent throughout the entire system - self, classroom, school, district, and eventually the community.” - Transforming Schools, p. 13

What Symmetry between Adults & Students Looks Like

photo of studentsStudents are enculturated into a rich learning environment enabling attainment of the Graduate Profile skills. “Dispositions must be enculturated - that is, learned through immersion in a culture.” (p. 20, Cultures of Thinking)

Teachers intentionally embody, name, and teach the behaviors and stances we hope to nurture in our students, specifically the Graduate Profile skills. The ways in which adults work with and learn from one another parallels the way in which they hope students will learn. (p. 375, In Search of Deeper Learning)

photo of studentsClassroom Community: Students experience a classroom culture that is safe and brave, rigorous and accessible, independent and interdependent. Students invest in the culture of the classroom, hold themselves and their peers accountable to classroom norms, and pursue individual and collective goals with the support of the community.

Photo of EducatorsSite leaders and central office intentionally embody the behaviors and stances we hope to nurture in our students, specifically the Graduate Profile skills. Site leaders and central office create ongoing opportunities for adults in the system to experience the learning we want for students. Site leaders and central office strive to match intent to impact, seeking continuous feedback from those closest to the student experience to refine and revise approaches and supports.

Site leaders and central office intentionally embody the behaviors and stances we hope to nurture in our students, specifically the Graduate Profile skills. Site leaders and central office create ongoing opportunities for adults in the system to experience the learning we want for students. Site leaders and central office strive to match intent to impact, seeking continuous feedback from those closest to the student experience to refine and revise approaches and supports.

Symmetry between Adults and Students in Action

This page was last updated on June 28, 2022