Learning That Lasts: Introduction: The Change Our Students Need

What is the Deeper Instruction Framework?

As a nation, we strive continually to improve America’s schools and do a better of job of preparing students for success in college, career, and life. We mandate new policies, new structures, and new standards. But none of this will matter if we fail to make changes in the classroom, where learning actually takes place. Educational research has made it clear: the quality of teaching is the single most important factor in student success. But we cannot mandate great instruction. We need to inspire it and shepherd it.

Learning That Lasts presents a new vision for classroom instruction that sharpens and deepens what is asked of teachers and students. It is the opposite of a “teacher‐proof” solution. Instead, it is predicated on a model of instruction through which teachers become expert planners of learning experiences for students and continuously grow in the acuity and depth of their craft knowledge and content knowledge. It is not a theoretical vision. It is a model of instruction that was derived and improved in some of the nation’s most successful public schools—schools that are beating the odds to create remarkable achievement—sited primarily in urban and rural low-income communities.

Most contemporary writing about education either endorses or critiques a focus on basic skills, standardized tests, and job preparation. Learning That Lasts is a unique book; experts from EL Education not only highlight engagement, deep learning, artistry, and good character—they also demonstrate how to achieve an education that is worth celebrating. Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education, endorsement for Learning That Lasts

Learning Targets

  • I can describe what the deeper instruction framework is and why it matters.
  • I can state in my own words what it means to challenge, engage, and empower students.

Read: Overview of the Deeper Instruction Framework

The model of instruction in Learning That Lasts disrupts the classic paradigm of teacher-centered instruction, described by educator Paolo Freire as the “banking model” of education, in which teachers make “deposits” of knowledge into the empty containers of students’ heads. Instead, deeper instruction allows students for much of their time in school to be the thinkers and doers, collaborating, creating knowledge, and engaging in work that matters. Deeper instruction supports students to master core academic content through challenging real‐world work, deep engagement, and meaningful application.

The deeper instruction framework focuses on three things:

  1. Challenge
  2. Engagement
  3. Empowerment

Review: CHALLENGING Students with Deeper Instruction

Challenge is at the heart of deeper instruction. Grappling with new ideas and problems will productively challenge students when they have enough background knowledge to feel anchored, enough scaffolding to feel supported, and enough time and intellectual freedom to wrestle with complex ideas that stimulate their thinking. A productive challenge stretches students to go beyond what they may think is possible. This stretch leads to new learning.

Review the challenge excerpt from the Deeper Instruction framework below. As you prepare for an upcoming lesson consider the following questions:

  • How challenging are the tasks you are asking students to complete? How complex is the required thinking?
  • Am I giving students an opportunity to grapple? Am I making space for uncertainty or creative puzzling?
  • What questions should I ask? What is the purpose of each?


ENGAGING Students with Deeper Instruction

Engagement is fueled by curiosity and connection. Collaborative grappling with compelling problems and ideas strengthens students’ connections to each other, the classroom, and school—and greatly increases their engagement with learning.

Review the engage excerpt from the Deeper Instruction framework below. As you prepare for an upcoming lesson consider the following questions:

  • Do you know what students already know? What texts, tasks, or experiences will help them learn about the topic more deeply?
  • Will your questions encourage discussion? What protocols, prompts, or lesson formats will push students to ask questions of each other?
  • Is there a framing question or task that connects to an authentic personal, disciplinary, or social issue? If so, is this connection being used to engage students and deepen their thinking?


Review: EMPOWERING Students with Deeper Instruction

Helping students understand where their learning is headed, track their progress along the way, and make choices about how to approach their work empowers them to take ownership of their learning. Empowering students in this way also helps them develop a “growth mindset,” instilling in them the belief that intelligence is not something they’re born with, but something they can develop through persistence and strong habits of scholarship.

Review the empower excerpt from the Deeper Instruction framework below. As you prepare for an upcoming lesson consider the following questions:

  • How will you structure the lesson so that students take responsibility for their learning? How will they assess and track their progress? How will we debrief learning experiences?
  • What scaffolding can I provide to help students do high‐quality work?
  • Are there parts of the lesson that I can turn over to students to lead?
  • Does the lesson give students an opportunity to articulate why the learning matters?


Dig Deeper

26 Videos of Deeper Instruction in Action  Browse the full suite of videos that accompany Learning That Lasts. Videos will also be introduced and unpacked on subsequent pages of this PD Pack.

Learn More about Deeper Learning   Deeper learning prepares students to:

  • Know and master core academic content
  • Think critically and solve complex problems
  • Work collaboratively
  • Communicate effectively
  • Be self-directed and able to incorporate feedback
  • We created the deeper instruction framework to provide entry points for teachers to help their students reach these ambitious goals.

Academic Mindsets: A Key to Deeper Learning   Learn more about academic mindsets—the motivational components that influence a student’s engagement with his or her learning. Based on the work of Camille Farrington, the four academic mindsets are:

  • I belong in this learning community
  • I can succeed at this
  • My ability and confidence with grow with my effort
  • This work has value for me

Education Week’s “Learning Deeply” Blog Series   Explore a collection of articles about deeper learning from educators across the country.

Synthesize/Take Action

For Teachers…

  1. After reading the preceding Indicators of Deeper Instruction tables, consider what you’re already doing and what you could be doing differently to challenge, engage, and empower your students.

For School Leaders…

  1. How can you make the words challenge, engage, and empower, and the qualities they name, resonate and have impact throughout your school

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