What is Learning in Depth?

“Learning in Depth” is a simple though radical innovation in curriculum and instruction designed to ensure that all students become experts about something during their school years. Each child is given a particular topic to learn about through her or his whole school career, in addition to the usual curriculum, and builds a personal portfolio on the topic. To the surprise of many, children usually take to the program with great enthusiasm, and within a few months LiD begins to transform their experience as learners. The program usually takes about an hour a week, with the students working outside school time increasingly.

The nature of current schooling practice is to study many topics for a short period of time. That is, we emphasize breadth of knowledge over depth of knowledge. The implicit suggestion to children is that knowledge is fragmented, subject specific and shallow. As a result of our schooling and the “departmentalized” way we teach about the world, we often come to believe that the world is as fragmented as the subjects we study in school and the professional affiliations we may make once our schooling is over.  In hopes of imaginatively engaging students in learning about the places of which they are part and in cultivating within them the sense of the interconnectedness of the world, we require an educational context in which children can gain an understanding about the interconnectedness of the world.  This can develop, in part, through having the opportunity to learn a topic in greater depth than any other part of the curriculum. In doing so they learn something of the interconnectedness of knowledge.  They can learn more of the great mystery of the world and the wonder it contains.

Learning in Depth may also help students gain enough knowledge to be able to differentiate fact from opinion.  Egan (2010) notes: “I think people who have only the sketchiest sense of knowledge, because they know nothing in depth, easily confuse their wishes, needs, and opinions with knowledge, and in so doing create many of our most serious social and political problems” (2010, p.187).  By not knowing what knowledge actually is, by never experiencing what it is to truly know something, we can easily be led astray by the artifices of conjecture and heresy. By enabling our students to understand the nature of knowledge, then, we may equip them to be more critically minded, more able to articulate and address the ecological challenges and issues we face.

Learn more: The LiD Website OR Hear from LiD teachers on imaginED.

Find out more about Learning in Depth for IEE

In IEE LiD topics will be ones that students can investigate in the local natural and cultural contexts in which they live. In IEE teachers select topics that will allow for maximum personal interaction with place. Moreover, the kinds of tools children will be encouraged to use to explore their topics will support the three guiding principles of IEE (feeling, activeness, place). Along those lines exploration of the topic will include an emphasis on feelings and emotions, use of the body to physically explore aspects of the topic and consideration of the relationship of the topic to the physical and cultural place within which they live.

Supporting Ecological Understanding Through InDepth And Imaginative Study Of A Place-Based Topic Or Issue (Gillian Judson)

Abstract: Many have observed that the curriculum is a mile wide and scarcely an inch deep. This article provides a rationale for including in-depth study of a place-based/local topic within educational programs aimed at cultivating ecological understanding. Following a brief exploration of some of the obstacles to in-depth learning, it describes the ways in which in-depth and imaginative investigation can support ecological thinking. Consideration of beliefs and values concludes the piece; ideological and pedagogical factors will influence how teachers feel about implementing an imaginative, in-depth program of study and, ultimately, whether it becomes part of their professional practice.

Get it here: Judson, G. (2017)(2015). Supporting Ecological Understanding Through InDepth And Imaginative Study Of A Place-Based Topic Or Issue, Canadian Journal of Environmental Education20, 139-153.