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Blog: Wednesday, May 15th, 2019

Deep Learning for Teachers and Principals?

By Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

I want to follow up on my last blog about deep learning, because I hope to draw a parallel between what our schools are attempting to do for students, and what the adults themselves need to do to make it work. Besides, It was one of the things I promised to discuss in my Six (Sort of) Bold Predictions for 2019.
In my last post, I tried to make the point that we need to be clear about what we mean by deep learning, so that we don’t fall victim to fad, and so that we don’t confuse the heck out of each other, the kids and their parents. I also suggested that some of the critical features of deep learning (mastery, identity, and creativity), are nicely captured in our re-designed curriculum. In other words, if our curriculum is well taught we would have scores of students engaged in more meaningful, engaging learning experiences designed to deepen their intellectual and social capacities.
After having visited every school in our district (at least eight times over), I see tremendous signs of progress towards this goal. Teachers are embracing our re-designed curriculum in exciting ways. I see more inquiry in our classrooms, competency-based learning targets on more whiteboards, more evidence of students creating (rather than consuming) knowledge, more collaborative learning, more critical thinking and problem solving, greater use of technology to solve problems, more engagement in authentic tasks, stronger focus on character building and self-regulation, more student empowerment, and more teaching of aboriginal history and culture. I could go on. While other jurisdictions around our country are making some questionable moves in the face of an international call to modernize our K-12 education, our province is leading the way. There is no turning back.
This brings me to my current query. As teachers, principals and vice-principals, (and superintendents) all aim to create more deep learning experiences for students, don’t we need the same kind of experiences for the adults in our schools? Think about it for a minute. How can we expect our children to learn differently if we do not expect our teachers and administrators to do the same?  How can a teacher help students to be self-regulated if he is not regulated?  How can we help students find and share their passions if their teachers are not doing the same?  How can we expect students to be curious about the world around them if their principal is not curious about how building a learning culture? Can we expect students to create knowledge and not have their teachers do the same? How can students come to a deeper understanding about their identity if the adults around them are not doing the same? Can we really teach kids how to collaborate and not collaborate with other colleagues?
It does not make sense that our kids should “do as we say, not as we do” when it comes to learning. I would go as far to say that our students cannot truly learn deeply about themselves and the world around them unless their teachers learn deeply about their kids and practice, and their principals learn deeply about their staff, collaborative learning and leadership. It is for this reason that I would say that deep learning is for everyone, adults and children alike. Just like students, adults learn in different ways and at different speeds. The important thing is to keep learning.  I know that sometimes we hear complaints about the number of professional learning days in the system, but I genuinely believe that one of the key things that will put us over the top is expecting everyone in our schools to model the kind of learning we want our students to exhibit.  
Deep learning is for all of us.

By Dr. Kevin Godden
Dr. Kevin Godden
Dr. Kevin Godden

By Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

Kevin has been the Superintendent of Schools for the Abbotsford School District since July 2011, overseeing some 19,000 students and 2,500 employees. Kevin is committed to student success in all forms and envisions a school district that can nimbly respond to the ever changing needs and interests of its students.