The Lost Concept: Deep Learning and Didactic Pedagogy

Deep Learning can be seen from different perspectives as opposite to Surface Learning where learning happens through data memorization and transfer rather than through thinking, reflections, collaboration and making connections. Deep Learning activities are thought-provoking, stimulate the learner’s schemata, are based on problem-solving and are related to previously acquired knowledge of the learner himself and from his interaction with others. I see Deep Learning from a cognitive perspective and I call it a cognitive educational concept (CEC). Looking back at a multitude of learning paradigms in mainstream education, I want to highlight the term Didactic Pedagogy which entails learning by replication of knowledge and memorization rather than helping students develop thinking and engage in knowledge making and collaborative intelligence. Kalantzis and Cope (2017) define Didactic Pedagogy as follows:

There is an emphasis on a narrow range of epistemic processes by means of which learners can demonstrate that they ca replicate disciplinary knowledge – which in this pedagogical mode is limited to remembering facts, appropriately applying definitions, correctly deducing answers by the application of received theorems and faithfully applying the “ processes of the discipline.” This is pedagogy of mimesis or knowledge replication.” (p.9)

Cope, B. and Kalantzis, M. (2017) e-Learning Ecologies: Principles for New Learning and Assessment (Ed.). New York. Routledge.


e-Learning or Technology-Mediated Learning

e-Learning as a buzz word has been with us for more than a decade in terms of its relation to modern schooling and as the common denominator for teaching and learning. Unfortunately, the rhetoric on the effectiveness of e-Learning is still ambiguous because of the lack of both qualitative and quantifiable measurable evidence. For many educators, the fact of integrating technology artifacts into the process of learning is enough to admit effective learning outcomes. In reality, from a pedagogical perspective, this is not true because it seems that it is technology which is handling pedagogy and not the opposite. Abrams (2015) sees it as follows:

The layered literacies framework requires educators to help students move between the online and offline worlds, using the knowledge gleaned in each to understand and to participate in socially ensconced spaces. Yet layering literacies doesn’t happen automatically. In fact, there’s much that mitigates against it, including overly scripted lessons that need to have more room for students’ interpretation and experimentation, the emphasis of assessment at the expense of ideation and originality, and the focus on technology without attention to pedagogy. (p.111)

Abrams, S. (2015) Integrating Virtual and Traditional Learning in 6-12 Classrooms. Routledge.


Technology is Neutral

In the late 1980s and early 1990s I was teaching in a high school and was very much enthusiastic about CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning). That was a trigger to engage myself in computer programming of some sort. The easiest and most available software for me at that time was GW-Basic. With a lot of commitment and perseverance I managed to master the program and started to offer my students a program that tested grammar, vocabulary and reading comprehension. At that time, it was a miracle. Just the fact of using the computer and responding to the multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and getting the immediate RIGHT/WRONG feedback was, I believed, the essence of CALL and that my students would learn better. I WAS TOTALLY WRONG! Years later, I discovered the fallacy and that pedagogically, I only made a transfer from a paper onto a screen and nothing more. Cope and Kalantzis (2017) see it this way:

e-Learning ecologies may play a key part in the largest shift in the systems of modern education since their rise to dominance in the nineteenth century. Everything may change – configurations of space, learner to teacher and learner to learner relationships, the textual forms of knowledge to which learners are exposed, the kinds of knowledge artifacts that students create, and the way the outcomes of their learning are measured. Or we may introduce a whole lot of technology into schools and nothing will change in institutional or epistemic senses. Technology is pedagogically neutral. (p.1)

Cope, B. and Kalantzis, M. (2017) e-Learning Ecologies: Principles for New Learning and Assessment (Ed.). New York. Routledge.