Deep Learning

I recently watched a video where a student mentioned ‘deep learning’. This concept has always intrigued me: deep learning, enduring understanding. What’s the difference between an enduring understanding of a concept and simple memorization? With our curriculum redesign underway, is there still a place for memorization in our schools?

This battle is one I have heard discussed on the news, between parents and even among educators. During the last ten to fifteen years we have experienced some curricular changes with more of an emphasis on the constructivist approach: simplistically, students construct meaning from what they read, hear or discuss.

Do we need to memorize reams and reams of data? Probably not if a quick internet search will suffice. Students can still be exposed to the information and engage in meaningful discussion about it. A much more valuable use of time. Through this approach, students will develop critical thinking and communication skills and learning will become much more relevant.

All that said, there is a place for memorization in schools. Students should be required to memorize math facts, provincial capitals, and the basics such as their own addresses. Memorization serves a practical purpose that cannot be denied or ignored.

The pendulum has a tendency to making wide, sweeping movements. Yet often, best practice incorporates strategies from both ends of the spectrum. The constructivist approach doesn’t have to replace the skill of memorization. There is room for both in our schools. In fact, the two extremes complement each other nicely: the ah-ha moments that come from discovery and the confidence that comes from knowing.




3 thoughts on Deep Learning

  1. I could not agree more! It’s uncanny that I just finished commenting on this very subject and 20 minutes ago on Facebook! I’m just impressed that people are interested in education! LOL Who would have thought that the math curriculum would be such a hot debate!

  2. It has been a hot topic! We recently had an inservice by Box Cars and One-Eyed Jacks. It was a great reminder of the power of games to teach those basic skills like math facts and place value. Knowing those basic skills empowers students during the learning of larger concepts.

  3. Thanks for this! It is most unfortunate that the current ‘media approach’ has described Education as ‘throwing out math facts’, which is not true! Your perspective helps us understand exactly where education is going in the province of Alberta. This should be sent to The Journal. My bet, they ignore it because it is true and doesn’t sound like news!!

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