American Institutes for Research Study Highlights Positive Impact of “Deeper Learning”

August 8, 2016

American Institutes for Research (AIR), a nonprofit dedicated to unbiased analysis and one of the world’s largest behavioral and social science research and evaluation organizations, released a series of reports based on a study funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. AIR analyzed opportunities and outcomes for students attending schools in the Deeper Learning Network (DLN).

The DLN is a community of practice with 10 member networks featuring more than 500 schools across the country. The researchers selected 13 moderately or well implementing network schools for study, and, for each, they selected a non-network school as a comparison.

The DLN and comparison schools featured in the study are all public high schools with traditionally underserved student populations including students of color, English language learners and students from low-income families. Additionally, each network school and its comparison school had similar incoming student achievement rates and comparable levels of federal, state, and local funding.

Study Findings
The rigorous, quasi-experimental study of matched schools finds:
 HIGHER GRADUATION RATES: Students who attended the network schools graduated on time at statistically significantly higher rates;

 MORE 4-YEAR COLLEGE GOING: After graduation, students who attended network schools were more likely to attend a four-year college and enroll in more selective institutions.

 BETTER TEST SCORES: Students who attended network schools achieved higher standardized test scores, including state assessments and an OECD PISA-based test. These assessments measures core content knowledge and complex problem solving skills;

 STRONGER INTERPERSONAL AND INTRAPERSONAL SKILLS: Students who attended network schools reported higher levels of academic engagement, collaboration skills, motivation to learn and self-efficacy;

 GREATER OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN: While in school, students who attended network schools benefited from greater opportunities for deeper learning through such practices as project-based learning, internship opportunities, and longer-term cumulative assessments; and

 EQUITABLE OPPORTUNITIES AND OUTCOMES: Attending a network school benefited diverse groups of students. Regardless of a background or incoming achievement levels, students who attended network schools achieved the same positive deeper learning outcomes.

What is Deeper Learning?
The National Research Council (NRC) in its report Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century, validated deeper learning’s emphasis on critical reasoning and a suite of other cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal skills that allow students to master rigorous academic content as well as learn how, why, and when to apply knowledge to answer questions and solve problems.
In hundreds of schools across the country, the deeper learning movement reimagines what it means to be a student and what it means to be a teacher. The hope is if students develop deeper learning competencies while in high school, they will be better prepared for civic and everyday life and more likely to succeed in college and in their future careers.

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