The following is a guest blog post from CEM partner Partnership for 21st Century Learning’s P21Blogazine
Deeper learning. It’s both a buzz word and a meaningful expression of what we wish for all students. It’s what accomplished teachers have always provided. Deeper learning is about delivering meaningful content in an innovative way, enabling students to learn and apply their knowledge.
These students are motivated; they are challenged; and they are able to apply what they have learned to both academic and real life experiences. This is the kind of learning that every parent wishes for their child and it’s the kind of teaching that every teacher should aspire to.
I lead the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. One of the roles my organization plays is to maintain high and rigorous standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do. We believe – and significant independent research supports—the idea that higher standards for teachers leads to deeper learning for students. Teachers who achieve National Board Certification—that is, they are certified as having met those standards—provide students with knowledge and practical skills needed to succeed. The deeper learning those students receive will be an advantage for them in their future education or careers.
OUR EDUCATION CHALLENGES
Deeper learning enabling all students to succeed is the goal. However, across the country, a range of barriers present complex challenges. With a workforce of over 3 million and a turnover rate that is reaching crisis proportions, teaching presents a formidable challenge to anyone trying to bring about change at scale. Further, our focus on accountability based on ubiquitous testing disincentivizes teachers from a focus on deep, practical, creative and meaningful teaching for students. To the contrary, the current testing climate virtually defines high-achieving schools as those that effectively (and, perhaps nearly exclusively) teach well to those tests. The truly accomplished teachers are those who teach to a high standard and prepare their students well beyond those high stakes tests. The balance presents a significant challenge and one that we must grapple with.
A teacher who practices according to the professional teaching standards inherently engages students in deeper learning. There is a strong correlation between the Deeper Learning Student Competencies and the National Board Standards. This correlation exists in spirit, each Competency and set of Standards holding student growth at its core, and in the letter of the documents, with every Competency clearly reflected in Standards language and expectations.
Together, the National Teaching Standards and the Competencies provide a strong vision for exceptional educational experiences and outcomes. Advanced learning for every student is the goal of both, even though that growth is considered from two different perspectives. The Deeper Learning Student Competencies approach that expectation of growth by considering the student—What does a student know, do, and believe that enhances his or her ability to learn? The National Board Standards consider that same student growth from the perspective of the teacher—What does an accomplished teacher know, do and believe to enhance all students’ ability to learn? Placing the Competencies into conversation with the Standards illuminates the dynamic partnership that exists between students and teachers—and among students—throughout the learning process. Instruction in the hands of Board-certified teachers produces deeper learning in students.
A LOOK FORWARD
As I look to the future of America’s schools, I see a plethora of opportunities. I see the nearly 14,000 candidates working to earn Board certification. I see a commitment in many states to advance accomplished teaching that leads to Board certification. I also see a strong focus on student learning. The kind of learning that bodes well for achievement in school and success beyond school.
Peggy Brookins is President and CEO of the National Board of Teaching Standards. Her long career as an educator includes many national leadership positions and accolades. In July 2014, President Barack Obama named Brookins as a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans.