Deep Conceptual Learning in Science and Mathematics: Perspectives of Teachers and Administrators

Peter Rillero


Research suggests deep conceptual learning (DCL) is distinctly different than surface learning (Chang & Chang, 2008; Biggs, 1999; Marton, Dall’Alba, & Beatty, 1993). Deep conceptual learners tend to think, discuss, and question more, seeking to understand rather than only memorize (Lyke & Young, 2006).  A commonality of the Common Core standards in mathematics and the Next Generation Science Standards is greater focus on depth rejecting superficial survey curricula. The Interconnected Model of Teacher Professional Growth (Clarke & Hollingsworth, 2002) describes domains influencing teacher enactment of new initiatives. Information about teachers and administrators’ Personal Domains and Domains of Practice were gathered and analyzed through an adaptive questionnaire on mathematics and science education at the middle school and high school levels. The questionnaire items included the extent to which DCL methods are put into practice, the perceived importance of DCL, the status of DCL in schools, and which instructional methods embody DCL. Survey results (N= 425) indicate respondents believe that DCL is very important for preparing students for careers and college. Both administrators and teachers generally believe that DCL is very important for mastering the new standards and there was strong agreement that (a) the learning environment influences student DCL behaviors and (b) DCLs are more likely to become lifelong learners.


science education, math education, deep conceptual learning, standards, teachers, administrators, professional development

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