Student’s reflections on implementing LiD

Learning in Depth

Learning in Depth (LiD) was introduced early in the ECH430 unit and, for me, created an extremely useful lens through which to interpret later scientific content knowledge in the course. As an early childhood pre-service teacher, knowing what to teach and how to teach is often at the forefront of my mind. However, LiD provided the perspective that science education does not simply equate to the teacher imparting set facts (as the sole custodian of knowledge). Instead, LiD presents students as powerful and encourages them to participate in constructing their own learning through long-term personal projects.

In fact, students end up becoming experts within a particular topic and are able to share their topic in the classroom as an additional source if knowledge.

What is Learning in Depth?

Learning in Depth is a pedagogical approach which was developed by the Imagination Education Research Group, directed by Kieran Egan . LiD is relatively new, beginning in 2009, yet has been implemented by schools around the world including Japan, Canada, Australia, the US, and even Tehran (Egan & Madej, 2009; Learning in Depth, 2012).

The basic premise of LiD is to provide each student early in their schooling with a topic which they will continue to learn about throughout their entire school career – potentially as long as 12 years. These topics are carefully selected to foster deep learning across all key learning areas. Examples include, apples, milk, bears, fossils, light, ships. For a full list see here.

The aim of the program is not to replace normal curriculum delivery and requires few resources at the outset. Students typically only spend 1 hour a week on their LiD topic and continue to add to their learning outside of school, spending increasing amounts of time in independent study.

Educators using the LiD pedagogy have highlighted several benefits.

1) It makes students specialists
2) It hones skills that transfer to learning in other content areas
3) It encourages learning for its own sake
4) It creates a community of learners
5) It stimulates the imagination

The 5th point is of particular interest to Egan as he states that imagination “only works with what we know” (Egan & Madej, 2009, 62). In other words, the more information available to us the more creative or imaginative we are able to be.

Three Implications for Teachers

1) LiD creates a community of learners

Time after time, best practice for teaching students with cultural, linguistic and diverse abilities includes hands-on learning and active engagement with peers, especially in small groups (Martin, 2011, Turner & Kim, 2005; Bull, 2008). The opportunity to share and construct learning alongside others is frequently shown to be of benefit, especially to those who are most vulnerable. LiD provides great opportunities for students to be openly recognized for their skills and knowledge and for teachers to draw upon students as experts within the everyday learning. This also creates an environment where learning is valued and difference can be celebrated.

2) Creativity and imagination

Ken Robinson (2011) makes a strong case that the current education system is outdated and ill-prepares students for dynamic, creative-based industries that are becoming essential to modern society. He suggests the current education system is structured on industrial revolution systems of mass production that promotes conformity rather than imagination and creativity. Secondly, he suggests that the increasing pressure to achieve well on standardized tests simply creates ‘academic inflation’. Rather than promoting the types of skills which are of most value to employers, it simply adds another requirement to employment and makes employment all that much more difficult for the ‘underqualified’.

In light of these condemning criticisms I have to ask the question: “What can we do differently?” I think the LiD project provides students with opportunities to break out of the current educational model and begin to incorporate their own interests, skills, talents and also allows teachers to foster individual student education on a level which is nearly impossible otherwise within a fixed curriculum.

3) Encourages learning for its own sake

The love of learning is one of the broad aims of learning, yet Robinson (2011) argues that the aim of learning within our education system actually primarily focuses on attaining good grades to enhance future job prospects. The LiD project seeks to steer away from this. LiD projects operate outside of typical school assessment and are not graded in a standardized way. This frees children, providing them with the liberty to explore and take risks without fear of how it will be received and graded. It also demonstrates the pleasure of learning as a part of life, distinct from the school environment.


Bull, R. (2008). Small study – Big success story: Primary Connections Incorporating Indigenous Perspectives Pilot Study Report. Canberra: Australian Academy of Science.

Egan, K & K, Madej. (2009). Learning in depth: Students as experts. Education Canada, 49(2), 18-23. from

Learning in Depth. (2012). LID worldwide | The learning in depth project. Retrieved November 6, 2012.

Martin, D. (2011). Elementary science methods: A constructivist approach. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.

Robinson, K. (2011). Out of our minds: Learning to be creative. United Kingdom: Capstone Publishing Ltd.

Turner, J. & Kim, Y. (2005). Learning about building literacy communities in multicultural and multilingual classrooms from effective elementary teachers. Literacy Teaching and Learning, 10(1), 21-41.


Learning in Depth: A Simple Innovation That Can Transform Schooling
by: Kieran Egan
Amazon Price: $14.11 (as of 11/30/2012)