Using the Deep Learning Inventory to Transform Your Campus

A few years ago, as Rusty, Hal, and I mentioned in previous posts, we ever-so-slightly changed our CTL’s motto/prime directive from “Helping Teachers Help Students Learn” to “Helping Teachers Help Students Lean Deeply” in order to reflect our commitment to deep learning. Last summer we helped our unit modify its strategic plan so that student deep learning was our chief objective. Last week at New Faculty Orientation we heard a presentation on our SACS-required QEP 2.0 on critical reading developed through metacognitive strategies, and the major reason for the theme was to develop “deeper learning in our students.”

In short, we have helped more of the University focus on the goal of deep learning. How did we reposition the importance of deep learning in such a short time?

First, before we changed our CTL’s motto, we carried out a great deal of research into deep learning. In turn, that new knowledge informed every presentation we did for various groups from the provost to our Teaching & Learning Innovations Series. We also helped the University create DEEP (Developing Excellence in Eastern’s Professors), a new online professional development system that takes participants from teaching at a basic level to teaching for deep learning.

Second, after all our research on the subject, last year at this time we talked to our publisher, Doug Dollar, about writing a book on the subject. Transforming Your Students into Deep Learners (2016) was published last spring, and a copy was provided last week to each of the 60 new hires who went through New Faculty Orientation. The book provides us with a shortcut so that every time we address a group, we can point out that while time does not allow us to cover deep learning in the depth it deserves, the book will compensate for our omissions.

This fall our Teaching & Learning Innovations Series (15-20 sessions) is themed around deep learning, and the three of us will be facilitating an early session on “Deep Learning to Engage Students in the Classroom,” which is described on our online site ( “a discussion of recent research on faculty-student deep learning.” We will also be giving out copies of Transforming Your Students into Deep Learners to the first 20 participants to register.

Suggested Reading: Transforming Your Students into Deep Learners

The Deep Learning Inventory: A Rationale

One of the most important things we have discovered while running our CTL is the typical professor’s over-inflated opinion of his/her abilities. Remember the poll wherein 90% of the professors believed they were in the top 10% of all professors? When, for instance, we were part of the team that introduced QEP 1.0, we found our greatest obstacle to implementing critical and creative thinking across the campus was our professors’ collective belief that they did not need the QEP because they were already teaching these two types of thinking. Yet, the more we visited with them and questioned them, the more we learned that their instruction was not intentional, organized, or broken down into teachable strategies. Likewise, many new faculty believe they do not need a Pedagogy Day until we begin the Day by demonstrating to them their lack of pedagogical preparation.

Therefore, for our deep learning introduction, we devised a short inventory to let faculty realistically rate their understanding of the concept. Here is the form we’re using:

“Deep Learning to Engage Students in the Classroom” Work Sheet

Two Preliminaries

  1. Choose a course and describe your primary Student Learning Outcome for it:


  1. Identify your basic instructional paradigm (e.g., lecture, active learning, mentor from

the middle): ____________________________________________________

Scoring Guide: 1=never, 2=seldom, 3=sometimes, 4=always

For this course:

_____ 1. Do you use student reflections on the course material, learning strategies, and the instructional methodology?

_____ 2. Do you employ daily quizzes/reflections?

______3. Do you use short paragraphs and essays as the predominant mode of your tests/exams?

_____ 4. Do your SLOs, in-class discussions, homework, class exercises, papers/projects and tests/exams tend to focus on students’ remembering and understanding or students’ applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating?

_____ 5. Do you intentionally teach, explain to your students, and use retrieval? Is that retrieval for you spaced out, multiple (vs. one-time)?

_____ 6. Do your students receive timely feedback on the bulk of their work for you?

_____ 7. Do you teach any critical reading skills?

_____ 8. Do you model and provide opportunities for students to use critical thinking skills?

_____ 9. Do you emphasize your discipline’s way of looking at life as well as your discipline’s fundamental and powerful concepts?

_____ 10. Do you encourage your students to transfer their knowledge from one day to the next, from your course to other disciplinary courses, and from your course to courses outside your discipline?

_____ Total (the closer your score is to 40, the greater the possibility that you are teaching for deep learning)


Feel free to try the deep learning inventory, and if you do, please let us know how you found the questions (no, you don’t have to tell us your scores). If you would like some help on the subject, of course we recommend Transforming Your Students into Deep Learners, and, no, we’re not giving any more away.



Author Charlie Sweet EKUCharlie Sweet is currently Co-Director of the Teaching & Learning Center (2007+) at Eastern Kentucky University. Before going over to the dark side of administration, for 37 years he taught American Lit and Creative Writing in EKU’s Department of English & Theatre, where he also served as chair (2003-2006). Collabo-writing with Hal Blythe, he has published well over 1000 items, including 15 books; of his 11 books with New Forums. Meet Charlie.