- Surface learning, deep knowledge and the ability to transfer that understanding to other areas are all equally important educational goals to consider when designing rigorous curricula, and they can be can be embedded into lessons through the use of leveled-success criteria, Michael McDowell, superintendent of Ross School District in California, writes for Edutopia.
- First, teachers can employ specific words that focus on the different areas of surface, deep and transfer learning. For example, educators can emphasize surface learning by talking about solving math problems, encourage deep learning by assessing and comparing strategies, and then illustrate the ability to transfer knowledge by having students evaluate and suggest next steps.
- Educators can also focus students on the idea of transferring knowledge to uses other than the task or subject area for which it was gained. Additionally, McDowell suggests learners be directed to view success as not just finishing a specific task, like a worksheet, but also in their ability to develop new skills and then support their peers.
As schools work to reopen for in-person learning while re-acclimating students and addressing pandemic learning loss, designing a curriculum that balances rigor without being daunting or intimidating to students will be critical to help those needing time to adjust back to a more demanding educational environment.
Remote learning for many learners proved to be a less rigorous and more disengaging experience, with some students falling further behind academically than others. As a result, it's crucial to find ways to scaffold learning and ease those students back into in-person learning and more rigorous educational experiences.
Lessons that help contextualize learning, such as using real-world examples or connecting details within the curriculum to students’ own lives and personal interests, can be helpful. Educators can tie a lesson to a place, bringing lessons into a local point of view by helping students see how the information they learn links to their lives at home.
Last spring, for example, educators worked the hatching of the Brood X cicadas into science classes. History teachers can engage students through local walking tours, helping them find historically significant locations in their neighborhoods or towns and bringing the past into the present.
Tying real-world phenomena into curriculum is also an effective way to help students understand why they are learning about a subject. This can be woven into a number of disciplines. Students in science classes can study the solar system and then follow the recent deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope or the upcoming Artemis moon launch. Likewise, technology or economics teachers could encourage students to design a new product or open an online store to explore the concepts of running a business.
As educators look to relaunch more rigorous curricula, they can also consider methods that help students who need more time and support, encouraging learning while helping children re-acclimate to a more focused, academic experience.