Learning in Depth

About the Project

Learning in Depth (LiD) is a simple though radical innovation in curriculum and instruction, designed to ensure that all students become experts in something during their school years. Each child is given a particular topic to learn about through his or her whole school career, in addition to the usual curriculum, and builds a personal portfolio on the topic. To the surprise of many, children usually take to the program with great enthusiasm, and within a few months LiD begins to transform their experience as learners. The program usually takes about an hour a week, with the students working increasingly outside school time.

LiD is an unusual program and tends, after the first simple description, to elicit enthusiasm from some people and hesitation from others. While the basic idea is quite simple, the potential implications of the program for students, teachers, and schools are profound.

In most of its literature, LiD suggests beginning when children start school. This is the ideal, but it is not always possible for many teachers. If you teach Grade 6, for example, and are attracted by LiD, there is no reason not to start then. At the moment there are LiD programs beginning in all grades in some schools somewhere, even Grade 12.

The aim is to have LiD become a part of the experience of every child at school. It was implemented first in Canada in 2008, and since then has spread to many countries in the Americas, Asia, Australia, and Europe. The impact of the program tends to begin in a single classroom with a single teacher trying the program. Mostly teachers are surprised by the students’ enthusiasm, and it then spreads to other teachers. Its impact is greatest when all classes in a school become involved in LiD. The small-scale evaluation studies carried out so far indicate great student and teacher satisfaction, and also “transfer” of LiD-gained skills to other areas of the curriculum by the third year of its operation.

The program takes only one hour a week of school time and everything else in the school continues as before. The investment in time and money required to implement LiD is very small; the beneficial educational impact on the students is nearly always enormous.

Another feature of the LiD program is that it is not graded. Students direct their own learning, with support from teachers where necessary.

Each year, all students are expected to make a presentation on their topics.

Some comments about the program:

“This is a fascinating, provocative, utterly visionary and courageously speculative imagining of an educational future that is simultaneously elite and egalitarian, deeply intellectual yet utterly connected to passion and identity. A most audacious proposal from one of education’s most audacious thinkers . . . an inspiring challenge to those who aspire to deep understanding for their students.” (Lee S. Shulman, President Emeritus, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching)

“Learning in Depth outlines a bold and stimulating curricular innovation designed to improve the quality of schooling from kindergarten through high school.” (Philip W. Jackson, University of Chicago)

“The Learning in Depth project has brought to our students a completely new relationship to learning that has been surprising in its depth and quality” (Sheri Dunton, Corbett Charter School).  “LiD has changed my children!!! In the two years since their school adopted this program, my children learned how to love learning!” (Parent, on IERG website).


April 24, 2019 (last update 09-10-2019)