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Encouraging Deep Learning vs Surface Learning Strategies

It’s truly hard to separate the content of deep learning without an understanding and knowledge. Since knowledge and understanding are only different by one string of red lines, that if we can be crossing it, then the concept of understanding beyond that knowledge will be miraculously insightful as we called it deep in this case or wisdom in some other cases. In many cases that we have seen knowledge without practical application is meaningless, like Richard P. Feynman ever stated, “it doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are, if it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.” Therefore, to have not only a proper understanding of the knowledge that we are learning, but we also need to help our learners in this case on some practices that can be attached unconsciously to their mind of thinking. Especially for their higher education later on in the universities and their life to live. Furthermore, if learners learn knowledge without practically understanding, learners won’t truly remember it. Teaching and guiding learners without educating them a lesson properly makes it likely that education is not so helpful as it has to be in the first place. It would be better to help them on deeply understanding by guiding them on their goals.

Another reason, encouraging deep learning than surface learning with purpose Learners can apply their understanding as their own choice to the options that have been given. For one thing, learners may have trouble applying it properly to another subject, as the connection may not be pointing clearly. But as been mentioned by Ron Ritchhart (2015), “The focus of that learning is on the development of understanding”, then this could become a challenge in learner progress as one of the tests that learner needs to find the connections to prove on their understanding behind the pieces of knowledge that has been memorizing or introducing. Deep learning than surface learning also applies in almost all current international curriculums. Like in IB, there’s a need of writing their thoughts and opinion such in Theory of Knowledge (TOK), also happened currently like in AP, there’s AP Seminar, which students need to do presentation and writing of their choices. Also, deep learning than surface learning will bring learners to a brighter view of their choice in applying this knowledge they have gained to a proper understanding throughout their learning. Learners will not only know about their subject material, and the learner will see themselves as a successful learner, inform he or she may have a brighter view on choosing which field learner want to do further development or involvement, and importantly not feel regret to choose such a special major in the university. It is not worth giving surface learning without deep learning ideas on the learner to fill their hungry on learning, as been state by Ron Ritchhart (2015), “It’s true realization will depend on the rigorous adoption of deep learning strategies as the norm rather than the exception in classrooms”.

Finally, the seriousness of deep learning than surface learning is not the same in all cultures. Americans value detailed processes and proper answers. Learners are taught from a very young age to provide a process and detail of their work. Even though some Americans still do plug-and-play. But that’s not even what makes most Americans ignore the process and details because as Shagar Khillar (2020) concludes about “Deep learners are intrinsically motivated and determined to use higher-order cognitive skills to master academic content”. On the other hand, not all educators share this attitude about deep learning and surface learning. In China Mainland, for example, most schools just concern about their good grade with their teacher’s limited time. It’s common for learners in China Mainland learner been taught by past papers repeatedly, as one of the methods of surface learning, and hopefully, there’s a similar question and answer in the current exam, which is surely good for passing the exam, but a minimum of an idea in application and understanding. Therefore, it’s not far to introduce deep learning than surface learning from each educator. Most educators may not realize the value of deep learning than surface learning, except filling their duty as the school asks them. But the University will be taught differently from surface learning to deep learning and then how we will use all of that information to some examples that are surely measurable, observable, practicable. Because there are different views on learning, learners should not become an object on achieving the educational institute goal that’s not helpful to education and learner’s achievement.


01. Ritchhart, R. (2015). Creating cultures of thinking: The 8 forces we must master to truly transform our schools. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.

02. Khillar, S. (2020). Difference between deep learning and surface learning. Retrieved from: [Accessed on Mar 11, 2021]


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