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The following table compares deep versus surface learning.  

Deep

Surface

Focus is on “what is signified” 

Focus is on the “signs” (or on the learning as a signifier of something else)

Relates previous knowledge to new knowledge 

Focus on unrelated parts of the task 

Relates knowledge from different courses 

Information for assessment is simply memorized 

Relates theoretical ideas to everyday experience 

Facts and concepts are associated unreflectively 

Relates and distinguishes evidence and argument 

Principles are not distinguished from examples 

Organizes and structures content into coherent whole 

Task is treated as an external imposition 

Emphasis is internal, from within the student 

Emphasis is external, from demands of assessment 

Six factors have been seen to promote deep learning:

Good teaching – Faculty are well prepared, confident

Openness to student – Faculty are friendly, flexible, helpful

Freedom in learning – Student have choice in what they study

Clear goals and standards – Assessment standards, expectations are clearly defined

Vocational relevance – Course seen as relevant to future careers

Social climate – Good relations between students (social, academic)

Instructional methods can have a major factor the impact of courses and programs on students.  Instructional methods that promote deep learning:

Encoring faculty/student interaction

Encouraging student/student interaction

Using active and interactive teachers methods

Making links with what students already know to encourage sense of structure

Allowing student input into course goals and methods, being receptive and flexible

“Discussing/teaching learning skills explicitly

Trying to link course topics to students’ lives and career aspirations

Assessment methods promoting deep learning

Define assessment goals and task clearly, and ensure they are congruent

Allow choice of assessment tasks

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