Learning in Depth should not be confused with "deep learning," which has to do with the development of artificial intelligence. I found myself involved in an email exchange and wondered why I had been included in it. In the past, I had inquired of Kieran Egan about his Learning in Depth approach, and someone felt that either I had something to learn from the exchange which was about developing appropriate questions to engage kids in learning, or something to add to it.
A few years back, I received a mysterious subscription to Ms. magazine. My first thought was that an acquaintance of the opposite sex thought that I might need some lessons and that the magazine would be necessary for my advancement toward a more meaningful human behavior. That turned out to not be the case. A male friend was helping to raise funds for a woman’s shelter and bought the subscription for me as part of a fundraiser.
So in that thread of email exchanges I had the choice to assume that I was included in it because someone thinks I need to be brought up to speed, or that I might have something meaningful to contribute.
At the risk of wrongfully assuming the latter, I interjected the following:
Manual arts training in the US grew up from two threads. One was that we were entering an industrial age in which hands required training as well as the mind. The other thread was a reaction against “classical education”. Here, think Socrates, the Socratic method and the teacher as the source of questions and testing for right answers. That classical approach was not working to develop the intellectual resources demanded by the growing industrialized/technological age.The thing that made me interested in Learning in Depth is that it recognizes that each child’s interests can be unique and still provide a roadmap for future growth. So toward that end, we need to help students find confidence in asking their own questions, not necessarily to become better at asking our own, except of ourselves.
Jonathan Baldwin Turner was considered the father of the Land Grant Colleges and said the following in May, 1850:
"...a classical teacher who has no original, spontaneous power of thought, and knows nothing but Latin and Greek, however perfectly, is enough to stultify a whole generation of boys and make them all pedantic fools like himself. The idea of infusing mind, or creating or even materially increasing it, by the daily inculcation of unintelligible words--all this awful wringing to get blood out of a turnip--will, at any rate, never succeed except in the hands of the eminently wise and prudent, who have had long experience in the process; the plain, blunt sense of the unsophisticated will never realize cost in the operation. There are, moreover, probably, few men who do not already talk more, in proportion to what they really know, than they ought to. This chronic diarrhea of exhortation, which the social atmosphere of the age tends to engender, tends far less to public health than many suppose.”
I hope not to insult anyone’s intelligence, or myself by interjecting too much. Bloom’s Taxonomy is like the bible for those involved in Q&A based learning theory, but I think the best of student engagement and performance happens when the students are the source of questions, and teachers offer tools and appropriate testing models through which student self-directed inquiry and discovery can take place.
It would be pretty much off the wall and out of the box these days for educational theorists to consider learning anything from the manual arts training movement. Otto Salomon, founder of Educational Sloyd, the Swedish system of manual arts stated his theory I find more useful than Bloom’s Taxonomy. Simply put:
Start with the interests of the child.
Proceed from the known to the unknown.
Move in increments from the easy to the more difficult.
Move from the simple to the more complex.
Proceed from the concrete to the abstract.
Make, fix and create...