The world of college, work, and citizenship that students will enter demands more of students than memorization and extends to knowledge creation. To use a cooking analogy, students must have the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to be chefs rather than recipe readers: recipe readers see and know the steps, while expert chefs apply a deeper understanding to develop new dishes that delight the senses. To that end, this toolkit is designed to support state boards of education and their members in publicizing the board’s vision for providing students with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions essential for college, career, and civic success, and promoting broader dialogue around this vision.

The term deeper learning is used throughout the toolkit to mean an education that builds key competencies that include, but are not limited to, critical thinking and problem solving, effective communication, collaboration, learning how to learn, self-regulation, and academic mind-sets important for success in college, career, and civic life. The common thread among these skills is that they represent “the process by which an individual becomes capable of taking what was learned in one situation and applying it to new situations,” according to a 2012 National Research Council panel, and this process is referred to as educational transfer. Recent studies by the American Institute for Research highlight that schools focusing on deeper learning are not only successful at improving the competencies highlighted above but other outcomes such as academic achievement and graduation rates as well.

As states work to integrate deeper learning within other educational goals, NASBE encourages each state to convene a diverse array of stakeholders, including employers, postsecondary institutions, civic leaders, legislators, educators, parents, students, and others to reach a commonly understood definition that can result in greater ownership by stakeholders across the state. Through this process, a number of states have identified additional measures that reflect deeper learning, such as South Carolina’s “True North” definition, which includes creativity and innovation; Kentucky’s explicit definition of Global Competencies, and Oregon’s Essential Skills, which include demonstration of civic and community engagement.

Because deeper learning is so often misconstrued, it is essential for boards to identify and communicate their visions effectively. Once the state has its own vision—including plans and terminology—in place, this toolkit can be used as a resource that can help communicate that vision.