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Deeper Learning Book Review: the Advantages of Creative Approach to Education and Teaching

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Deeper Learning: A Book Review

When discussing differing teaching styles, we are given the spectrum of examples from a montessori school setting, where education is saturated with project-based learning and due dates are reliant upon a child’s motivation, and the strict scholarly setting, where there is a rigid rubric and deadline. One advocates for creativity, while one advocates for obedience. The former option of the two is supported in the book, Deep Learning: Transforming Schools Using Common Core Standards, Project-Based Learning, and Performance Assessment by Lenz, Bob, Wells, Justin, Kingston, Sally, as these educators open high schools around southern California geared toward project-based learning through a program called Envision Schools. With first hand experiences from graduates of the program, philosophies of other project-based learning advocates, and statistics of the graduates through college, Deep Learning allows the audience to understand the impact of creating and molding your own education.

Creation is a major emphasis in Deep Learning because of the inherent characteristics the creator exhibits upon the creation: passion. The authors of this book and the Envision Schools are similar to the mindset of bell hooks in her book Teaching to Transgress on the topic of passion about learning. For bell hooks, education liberated her from her race and her gender, and that liberation was something she wanted to share with her students. The goal of the Envision Schools, when opening campuses for racial minorities and impoverished students, was to also liberate the students through education. “..creativity is what excites us and engages us, forging an emotional connection to our learning that is critical to the process as the content of learning itself.” By creating that environment of engagement and excitement, students may have a deeper learning experience while building skills valued in higher education. With the intended passion, “the four C’s: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and completing projects” may be applied towards fulfilling Common Core State Standards as described in Chapter 3: “‘Work with peers to promote civil, democratic discussions and decision making, set clear goals and deadlines. (SL 11- 12.1b)’ … ‘Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. (Mathematical Practice #1)’ … ‘Everything on this list can be addressed through good PBL. And much of it can only be addressed through PBL.’” By fulfilling Common Core requirements through PBL, this form of education allows students to adhere to the state regulated curriculum without compromising their creativity.

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Creativity cannot be fabricated from nothing, and the authors acknowledge this truth in the Introduction of their book: “Of course, many hours of important, noncreative work must often happen before creative acts are possible, but creation should always be the conscious end goal of what students do at school.” The authors of this book are not condemning scholarly teaching, but they are explaining that the knowledge gained from scholarly teaching should not be for the sole purpose to regurgitate on standardized tests. In fear of the American school system and the future generations, the authors comment on the strict scholarly norm: “…it almost goes without saying that what standardized testing has done to the two skills that have commanded its attention- numeracy and reading comprehension- has been to strip them of their creative potential.” This, however, creates a paradox in higher education opportunities for the students by not implementing scholarly courses and examinations. The Envision Education’s main focus is on the creativity of its students, with the goal in mind to not only get into college, but graduate from college. However, once accepted into that college or university, the education will not be solely project-based like they experienced in their high school. By engulfing the students into the culture of pure project-based learning, the educators of the Envision schools are setting the students up for hardships when they encounter frequent standardized testing in their higher education.

While one can argue that montessori schools enable the student to exhibit the height of their creativity, one can counter that scholarly schools have rules and order that the rest of the world is based on. Project-based learning is proven to have beneficial ties to the development of a child, but the rest of the working world is not built on the same loose principles as the Envision Schools. The true mix of scholarly learning and project-based learning would be advantageous in creating a system where creativity can be applied to the rigorous scholarship of most higher education platforms, which eventually become to resourceful tools for the students’ careers.

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