American students lag behind their international peers in their ability to apply knowledge to problem solving.

Mere proficiency in regurgitating facts is not enough, the Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) said in a policy brief released May 26: To be competitive in today’s complex society, students need to be exposed to “deeper learning” that will allow them to be more prepared for college or a career.

“Deeper learning is simply what highly effective educators have always provided: the delivery of rich core content to students in innovative ways, allowing them to learn and then apply what they have learned,” said Bob Wise, AEE’s president.

The brief, entitled “A Time for Deeper Learning: Preparing Students for a Changing World,” outlined the policy changes necessary to provide students with learning that develops more than mere familiarity with content.

According the report, deeper learning prepares students to do the following:

  1. Know and master core academic content.
  2. Think critically and solve complex problems.
  3. Work collaboratively.
  4. Communicate effectively.
  5. Be self-directed and able to incorporate feedback.

AEE said this kind of deeper learning produces higher academic performances and allows for the application of lessons to real-world situations.

“A Time for Deeper Learning” argues that the United States has a two-tier system of education, where affluent students have more of an opportunity to achieve deeper learning, whereas low-income students learn only basic skills and knowledge. Results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) highlight the fact that American students lag behind their international peers in using their knowledge to solve reading, math, and science problems.