Achieving Depth

It has been a few weeks since I last wrote and spring has ignited a new beginning within me to express some of the thoughts lingering in my brain about education. I feel as if my mind and body are slowly creeping out of winter hibernation and figured that it was about time I expressed my thinking.

visible-learning-for-literacy-John-Hattie-Fisher-Frey-squareI am currently reading Visible Learning for Literacy by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey and John Hattie and have been captivated by the third chapter called Deep Literacy Learning.  I am always wondering how to achieve the slowing down and depth in learning and this chapter got me thinking:

  • How do we know if we are surface level teaching versus deep level teaching ?
  • Do our students demonstrate at least a year’s worth of learning during the ten months that they are with us? If not, why? Yikes! Deep question!
  • How do we get our students into “the pit of not knowing” and make this type of learning fun and powerful?
  • How did we get to a place where we put more weight on “covering the curriculum” instead of achieving depth?
  • How do we consistently make metacognition an integral part of our classroom and engage our students in thinking about their thinking?

Can you believe that “the ability to think more metacognitively begins around age 3 and develops into adulthood“? I was blown away by this.  We need to plan for metacognitive thinking within our classrooms at any age because to gain depth in learning our students must be able to think about and reflect on their learning. So what will we do differently and/or how can we incorporate metacognitive thinking in our day to day?

One thing mentioned, that is easy to implement, is how we speak to our students. A suggestion from Visible Learning for Literacy is to say “What are you learning?” rather than “What are you doing?” Or ask them “tell me what you understand so far?” I believe that if we take the time to listen, really listen, we will know if the students are gaining depth in understanding. Ask good questions and figure out what they do and don’t understand. Let your students do the talking and thinking.

Ultimately, we need to know and understand our students to understand if depth is being achieved. In the resource, they speak of strategies that have the biggest impact on student learning and what I appreciate is thinking about these strategies because they are the ones that I have been working really hard to achieve: classroom discussion, feedback, formative evaluation to name a few. Do you know which strategies are working to improve student achievement in your classroom? I encourage you to take some time and reflect on this to evaluate your programming. Ask yourself “is what we are doing working?” If it isn’t, “am I willing to change, or will I always do what I have done?”

I don’t have all the answers to the challenges we face in teaching, but I am thinking about my thinking and constantly asking myself questions and engaging in conversation with other educators.

“If you turn too quickly to the next set o’ facts, without giving students sufficient time and tools to go deeper, they will quickly learn that surface learning is what you value, and in turn, surface learning is all that you will get.”

Visit the following link to watch the webinar on the resources Visible Learning for Literacy.

Yours in learning,





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