Today I want to talk about a concept or learning strategy called deep learning. A term that is intimately linked to other concepts such as superficial learning and strategic learning.

My intention, therefore, in this entry will be to define what is meant by deep learning (meaning-oriented), what characteristics it presents and how it differs from superficial learning (oriented to reproduction or repetition) and strategic learning (oriented to performance or achievement). Because not all of our students learn equally. Because knowing how they learn, what motivates them and what means they use to learn seem to me to be three of the great challenges that we will attend in the classroom from now on.

Do you want to know more about deep learning? Do you want to know how it differs, for example, from superficial learning and strategic learning? If so, I will be happy to be with you in reading this article.

So, without further delay, we set sail …

What is meant by deep learning?

Deep learning consists of giving meaning to new information (Biggs and Tang, 2007), that is, it is a strategy that aims to incorporate a critical perspective on a particular learning and, in doing so, promote their understanding and allow their retention in the long term and with the possibility that this learning will later serve to solve a certain problem in a specific context.

If we read this definition carefully, we will not realize that, in short, deep learning focuses on understanding and how a learning can be applied and fixed forever.

Deep learning vs. Surface learning

Once we have defined what is meant by deep learning, I would like to insist on an idea that seems fundamental to me and which J. Hattie points out: “You need to have deep learning and superficial learning” (Hattie, 2013).

This affirmation of Hattie supposes that both learning, the superficial and the deep, do not oppose, but complement each other. This means that both are necessary for our students to learn. Thus, deep learning is not an alternative to superficial learning, but a complement.

And what happens with strategic learning?

This learning is characterized by looking for all possible means to stand out and obtain high academic results. Hence, we should relate more to superficial learning than to deep. Thus, the student chooses the method or strategy that he considers most appropriate to achieve success in the desired objective.

Therefore, it is a learning that is characterized by intentional, conscious, planned and self-regulation plays a decisive role, since it is the student himself who is aware of their own progress in relation to the goal that has been marked.

What characteristics does deep learning present?

Next, I would like to let you know some of the features or characteristics that make up the essence of deep learning and that are:

  • Intrinsic motivation that encourages learning as a source of satisfaction.
  • Learning focused on meaning.
  • Linking new knowledge with other subjects.
  • Connection between knowledge and real life.
  • Promotion of critical spirit, analysis and metacognition.

These and other characteristics move away from the superficial learning model that would be characterized by:

  • Extrinsic motivation, where the main objective is to learn to pass a subject.
  • Learning focused on the accumulation of data that are acquired in a rote way.
  • Little relationship between a knowledge and its application to real life.
  • Absence of reflection.
  • It focuses on the intention to fulfill the requirements of a task.

What strategies promote deep learning in the classroom?

Now that we know what deep learning is and what characteristics it presents, it is time to make known what strategies facilitate this learning. Among the most important would be:

  • Learn to understand
  • Set clear, assumable and realistic objectives.
  • Make the apprenticeship process more flexible.
  • Prioritize useful and meaningful learning.
  • Understand the figure of the teacher as a facilitator of knowledge instead of a transmitter of information.
  • Promote active methodologies that promote cooperation, critical thinking, mutated help or inclusion, such as, for example, cooperative learning or PBL.
  • Focus on learning from a competence perspective, discovering and fostering the skills and abilities of students.
  • Focus on a formative evaluation and qualification.
  • Understanding error as a fundamental part of any learning.
  • Promote feedback or feedback.

Promote strategies of thought that allow to evaluate, precisely, the depth of said thought and the precision in its conclusions.

What verbs are related to deep learning and superficial learning?

Here I share a series of verbs whose purpose is the fact that you could get an idea of the approach we give depending on the type of learning that we promote in the classroom.

Thus, for deep learning, we would speak of verbs like:

  • Sequencing
  • Compare
  • Justify
  • Predict

On the other hand, when we refer to superficial learning, the verbs that are related to this type of learning would be:

  • Define
  • Remember
  • Describe
  • Sort out

All in all, I want to insist that any verbs that appear on the list are valid for learning. What it is about is to realize what verb we want to use based on what we want to transmit and how we want our students to learn.

Deep learning In conclusion.

As teachers, we have the opportunity to teach our students that there are different ways of coping with learning. Each and every one of them are valid, but approaching learning from the depth, from the relational, supposes a qualitative leap in teaching.

We must bet today more than ever for an education that puts its accent on making learning exciting and satisfying. And doing so by fostering intrinsic motivation, betting on active methodologies, pedagogical models that help foster cooperation, problem solving and personal development, without for that reason we have to revile repetition or memorization as a learning stratgy.

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