Deeper learning delivers the skills and knowledge students will need to succeed in a world that is changing at an unprecedented pace. Deeper learning prepares students to:
- Master core academic content
- Think critically and solve complex problems
- Work collaboratively
- Communicate effectively
- Learn how to learn (e.g., self-directed learning)
The Hewlett Foundation adopted this new focus after months of research and analysis, including more than 100 interviews with top thinkers in the fields of education, business, and public policy. Over the course of our exploration, we found widespread agreement that America's schools must shift focus dramatically in order to prepare all of our children to succeed in a fiercely competitive global economy and tackle the complex issues they will inherit. The stakes are high, particularly for low-income students who attend low-performing schools with persistent racial and ethnic achievement gaps that fail to prepare them for college and careers. The Program plans to place special emphasis on ensuring these students receive equal opportunities for deeper learning.
For America's students today, commerce, politics, society, and technology are defined in international terms. They face competition from students with access to high-quality post-secondary training from every corner of the planet. Technology advances at an exponential rate, bringing with it new ways of learning and increased access to educational tools and materials.
As other countries are improving their education systems, too many American students are not being properly prepared in foundational subjects such as reading, writing, math, and science. Nor are we paying sufficient attention to cultivating the skills students will need to thrive in a globally connected job market. In one survey after another, business leaders complain that the majority of U.S. job applicants are ill-equipped to solve complex problems, work in teams, or communicate effectively.
At the same time, the problems of society are becoming even more complex and intertwined. More than ever, students today will need to rely on a sophisticated set of critical thinking skills and a working understanding of economics and the scientific process to sort out competing political arguments on everything from financial regulation to climate change.
The Foundation envisions a new generation of U.S. schools and community colleges designed to give all students—especially those from underserved communities—the knowledge and abilities necessary to succeed in this new environment. These schools would harness the deeper learning skills of critical thinking, problem solving, effective communication, collaboration, and learning how to learn to help students develop a strong foundation in traditional academic subjects.
The benefits are clear at every level. Students need deeper learning to succeed in college and prepare for careers. The United States must cultivate its talent and raise its overall educational attainment in order to lead in the global economy. And the world needs these capabilities to solve critical problems through teamwork and international collaboration.
The Education Program will invest in organizations that:
- Promote policies or strategies that create incentives for K-12 schools and community colleges to focus on deeper learning—particularly improved assessments used to measure a student's academic growth
- Build the capacity of the education system and teaching practices both online and in the classroom to reach large numbers of students with deeper learning
- Support proof points, including model K-12 schools and community colleges, and fund research that promote deeper learning as an attainable and necessary goal for all students
- Develop new, innovative models to increase access for all students and to improve deeper learning
For more information about the Education Program's support of deeper learning, please read the Program's strategic plan.
The Education Program does not accept Letters of Inquiry for its Deeper Learning grantmaking.