Teaching deep processing skills revolutionizes the way students study and the degree to which they ultimately learn new concepts and skills. I know because that is what happened in my classroom with my students once I discovered the power of facilitating the right study strategies and totally abandoning the wrong ones!
Most teachers spend at least the first week of each school year doing class building activities and teaching students routines and expectations. One year I decided to include learning about learning into orienting my classes during the first weeks of school. It was the early days of YouTube in the classroom, but I knew my students responded well to short videos as components of lessons, so I began looking for videos about learning, study strategies, and metacognition on YouTube.
What I found worked beautifully as an intro to studying for my students and served as an impetus for transforming how I asked students to do the work of learning in the classroom. I had always known that certain classroom activities were more filler for time than support for learning, but the way in which Dr. Stephen Chew explained and supported his findings about shallow vs. deep processing skills really helped me, as well as my students and their parents, understand how important it is not to waste time studying the wrong ways!
Deep Processing Principles
There are lots of misconceptions about how people learn best and how they should study to make the most of their learning.
Many people believe that if students are highly motivated to learn, they will be successful learners. However, motivation alone is not the key to learning. If someone is highly motivated, but wastes his time on ineffective learning strategies, they will not learn.
“Paying close attention” and “trying harder” also do not guarantee success with learning material. “Paying close attention” often prevents students from thinking beyond the words on the page and connecting that text with background knowledge or other learning. “Trying harder” is another generality for spinning one’s wheels (think pressing harder on the gas when stuck in the mud–usually the result finds one stuck more deeply in the mud).
Limiting one’s mode of learning to only one style (e.g. “I’m a visual learner”) is also not a guarantee of learning. In order to be successful learners, students need to take in information in multiple ways from multiple types of resources.
Time spent on studying is also not a guarantee of success in learning. As with motivation, one can “study” for hours and end up learning little or nothing if that time was not spent well.
Here is an introductory video to Shallow vs. Deep Processing from the Never Stop Learning YouTube Channel:
Dr. Chew contends that the one factor that really does affect successful learning is WHAT students think about when they are studying. He describes “learning activities” that do not include “deep processing” (described below) as SHALLOW. Shallow learning strategies/activities (he calls them orienting tasks) lead to shallow, surface level learning if they lead to any learning at all.
Deep Processing Basics
Once I had learned about Shallow vs. Deep Processing orienting tasks, I set out to eliminate shallow processing tasks from the work I asked students to do.
Deep processing orienting tasks, conversely, DO help students learn.
Check out this video lesson from the Never Stop Learning YouTube Channel on ELABORATION:
Note that deep processing of information always requires multiple steps. Deep processing goes beyond DOING and involves THINKING!
Note, my presentation includes several slides that are photos of deep processing work done by my students in my classroom.