"Deeper Learning" is one of those ambiguous concepts in the education reform movement that sounds wonderful—if we could just figure out what it is. As Jill Barshay put it, in The Hechinger Report:
When you ask a proponent of “deeper learning” what it means, you get a jargon-filled earful about collaboration, project-based learning, self-directed learning, problem solving, critical thinking and communication. At high schools that are practicing it, you hear about small classes, caring advisers, student work that can be shown off in a portfolio and the opportunity for students to do internships in the real world. To the lay person, it seems like a kitchen sink of good educational practices. Many high schools in America claim to do these same things.
Nevertheless, according to the article, there is actually some evidence that deeper learning—whatever it is—produces students who succeed. Please have a look. Even though the study cited involves high schools, the strategy also applies to colleges, as there is plenty of talk about deeper learning these days in higher education. You will note in the preceding passage that listing examples of deeper learning is easy. Formulating a precise definition is hard. As Supreme Justice Potter Stewart once wrote about pornography, "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it."
Furthermore, as the article notes, one major disappointment in the study is an indication that low-income kids apparently don't respond to the call of deeper learning as much as high-income students. If this is the case, community colleges may be out of luck, for obvious reasons. This is a point to keep in mind before getting on the We Go Deeper bandwagon, or hiring a Dean of Deepness or Vice President of Depth. (How would you like that on your resume?)
Many years ago an infamous study found that students who were familiar with Italian operas performed better in mathematics. This led to a number of silly proposals to institute operas into the curriculum, which undoubtedly pleased music teachers, but the groundswell thankfully fizzled. The opera-savvy kids came from homes with wealthy, highly educated parents—the kind of individuals who like opera. There is nothing deep going on, except for the family pockets.