On Wednesday, March 30, STC Chicago led a full-day workshop on Deeper Learning (DL) with our high school professional learning group (PLG). Eight schools from all three sectors (district, charter, independent) gathered at Chi Tech Academy to share their schools’ DL self-assessments, gather insightful feedback from peers, see practices in action, and hear about assessment of DL outcomes from the woman who literally wrote the book – Monica Martinez.

Monica Martinez’ book “Deeper Learning” profiles “Eight Innovative Public Schools [that] are Transforming Education in the 21st Century.” These schools have a range of practices in place, but all of them are driving towards 6 core outcomes:

  • Mastery of core academic content
  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Collaboration
  • Effective communication
  • Self-directed learning
  • Academic mindset

To start the day, school leaders discussed their understanding of and questions surrounding Deeper Learning. All agreed that these are valuable outcomes to pursue – with both students and teachers – but participants grappled with “how” to influence these outcomes and to measure them.

Cristo Rey St. Martin, a faith-based high school outside Chicago, has a unique model in which students attend internships for one day every week. Principal Michael Odiotti shared that students’ internship evaluations highlight strengths that teachers don’t see in academic settings, and pondered how to identify – and leverage – students’ strengths across different context.

Leaders also discussed the importance of promoting these outcomes for teachers, not just students. Once teachers have internalized these outcomes, they can model them for students. Monica shared that when she and her co-author visited the DL schools, “We’d have the smallest problem when we were there and then all of a sudden we would have 5 teachers helping us… It’s really kind of fun to be in a school where teachers are constant problem-solvers on these bigger things.” This collaborative and creative problem-solving is also a key competency for students to develop.

DL schools implement a variety of innovative practices, including active partnerships with organizations outside of the school, project-based learning that is grounded in real-world work experiences, competency-based grading, and positive cultures that value and empower both students and teachers as leaders.

Throughout the morning, participants engaged in various protocols to reflect on these practices. Together, they looked at student work from an interdisciplinary project that Chi Tech facilitated with their 9th graders to design “little free libraries” for severely under-resourced communities. Participants gave feedback and thought about how they could develop and refine projects in their own schools.

Later in the day, PLG members used a consultancy protocol to share feedback on supporting teachers in functioning as professionals within a collaborative community, a foundational principle of deeper learning.


PLG members also visited classes at Chi Tech Academy, a contract school within Chicago Public Schools that has transformed their teaching and learning practices over the past two years. With the help of High Tech High, Chi Tech has elevated teacher leaders, giving them a voice in school-wide practices and curriculum. They have also implemented project-based learning, both in classes and across disciplines.

Walking through the hallways, we could see these projects in action. A PVC pipe organ in the stairwell highlighted a collaboration between music and physics. In their Spanish class, students were creating bilingual board games about various illnesses, a project that spanned Spanish and Biology.



Leaders shared their “Wonders” and “Wows” following the classroom visits. Principal Linnea Garrett reflected on the feedback and shared a bit more about the journey Chi Tech has taken to shift their philosophy and pedagogy.


To close the day, participants engaged in a lively discussion about assessment practices for DL outcomes, and then spent time action-planning on how they will apply what they had learned. The PLG will meet several more times this Spring to refine their action plans and support each other in applying DL principles and practices.

Thanks to a generous grant from Generation All, the STC Chicago high school PLG, supported by Jennifer Husbands, the ED of STC Chicago, and Monica Martinez, has been working together all year to understand, reflect upon, and promote Deeper Learning. This work will be highlighted during a breakout session at our 2016 Forum on June 1011. Register today!