unit 2

Deep vs suface approach to learning

The idea of this activity is to understand what does deep learning means and what are the kind activities and assessment that the teacher needs to create so that deep learning can happen.
In order to study this aspect of the learning experience there are some resources to read:

  • The Higher Education Academy guide
  • This blog post
  • The National Education Association blog
  • Conceptions of learning and knowledge in HE: relationships with study behavior and influences of learning environments (Noel J. Entwistle and Elizabeth Peterson, 2005)
  • Some files I have been reading are available this link to my box
  • Steven Johnson’s Ted Talk: Where does good ideas come from?

Normally I adopt a deep and strategic approach to learning. Meaning with deep that I seek for meaning by relating ideas, using evidence and monitoring my learning so I can improve if needed and, with strategic I use Entwistles’ ideas meaning that it is an integral personal understanding. Achieving through organised and self-regulated effort guided by self-determination.

My experience with deep and surface learning

I usually want to go the bottom of things and understand the origins of ideas, from where they come and to what they relate in the bigger picture. I try to construct meaning all the time looking for connections among prior knowledge and the new one. The more connections I found the deeper and stronger the knowledge and the broader the range to where I can apply this knowledge. I think I have a big connected network of knowledge units that feed each other. I try, through my learning, to connect the majority of nodes in my knowledge network that I can, making it a strong and relevant network for my job and life in general.
I am not after grades. I do even read many things and take many online courses for the sake of learning and I am not interested in any certificate or accomplishment. Although I think this is not entirely right as in our society other people will ask me for evidence of my knowledge and I need to have those grades or certificate at hand to show them when necessary.

When the topic is not of my interest I try to think how relevant it is to what I am interested in and so I decide if I will go deep in that particular topic. If it is not so relevant I do the readings but more than reading I scan and see how that can answer the questions and then I move on.

In this course I adopt the two approaches in different moments. For example if my time is very limited and I do know the content I do not go very deep in the answers because time is gold at the moment but when I confront myself with new content that is relevant and totally new for me, i.e. unit 3, I will stop and go deeper in order to be able to connect this unit to my overall work in the university and my own research.

There must be a relevance to my practical work which is normally close connected to my intellectual interest. Therefore I have to say that most of the times I adopt a deep approach to learning.

Deep vs deeper learning

 It is very rare that I learn with a surface approach, it is against my nature. So I have chosen deep vs deeper and both experiences in mathematics.

As you know I am a math teacher so I studied math education as my undergraduate degree. There I had a math teacher that taught us integrals. He gave us the algorithm to calculate the integrals and voilá he gave us 234 exercises for homework. I did them all but I just followed the rules he gave us. It was quite easy and at that time I was so busy (I had already my 3 children, house, husband, dog and all the rest of a very active family life) that I did not care about not understanding the essence of it. I did wonder why we didn’t see any theorems but again no time to go deeper. 15 years later (2014) I became interested in the history of math, so I started to research in the origins of calculus. I had to give a workshop in a summer university in Denmark, so I new the only way to do a good workshop is having a deep understanding of the subject. So I went deeper!! I struggled so much, I read and read and looked at many different sources of knowledge. I saw videos, I heard podcast, I read original sources, secondary sources. I did a lot of exercises, I did a time line with the important stepping stones of the development of the calculus, I assisted to talks. I did not leave my house for a week just studying. I wrote an email to my supervisor one day really desperate and he send me from the Netherlands via post a chapter of a book but also an attachment with an exercised I did not understand, already resolved and explained and suddenly, the light came to me smile I got it!!! I understood the whole threat of reasoning I was after (Descartes and his discovery of analytic geometry as one of the stepping stones for Calculus to move forward and develop). It was really intense for me. I did not any thing different for almost a week. I know one should change, go out, forget, etc but I couldn’t, I was so into my learning desperate finding connections, links to my prior knowledge that I couldn’t leave nothing aside. When all the bits and pieces of discrete knowledge strarted to become part of a continuum I felt inside my head how all suddenly was making sense and many of the problems became clear to me.

After my workshop, I felt the ontological transformation I went through!!  I really changed inside, it was such a nice feeling. This moment of AJA, UNDERSTANDING, THE PENNY FALLING, its for me one of my favorites. So I guess that is why I avoid surface learning

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