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Deeper Applied Learning (D.A.L.)

Deeper Applied Learning is the development of knowledge, skill and understanding through settings or scenarios that relate to the employment sector. It enables learners to develop skills and understanding in a variety of context with teachers, other learners and individuals from outside the classroom.

QCA, 2009

At Reading Girls’ School, deeper applied learning (DAL) has two strands.  They are:  

1: External partner experiences at Key Stage 3.  

Members of educational and employment sectors are invited to co-deliver our curriculum, within a specific topic. These partnerships enable students to develop their knowledge, skills and understanding of the world beyond the school gates and in doing so, develop their cultural capital. 

2: R.E.A.L Lessons – Relevant, Engaging, Active Learning.  

Lessons are made relevant to the students to support in their understanding enabling them to apply knowledge and understanding to different settings or scenarios. Active learning strategies are deployed within lessons to ensure students remain engaged and focused throughout their learning. 

What is experiential and active learning? 

Experiential and active learning are linked to, and underpin, the ethos and approach of deeper applied learning. 

Experiential learning encourages learners to identify the purpose of the task being undertaken, to learn through reflection about how they undertook the task, and then apply (or transfer) this learning to other situations. Students are proposed with the question – How is our learning today, relevant? 

Active learning requires the learner to learn by doing, in order to process skills or information. It moves away from being ‘passive consumers’ of knowledge-based learning towards being ‘active explorers’ of knowledge, skills and ideas. 

Deeper applied learning can simply be defined as: Education put to practical use; learning is experiential, contextualised to real situations and personalised to the learners’ needs.   

Active learning focuses on how students learn, not just on what they learn. Students are encouraged to ‘think hard’, rather than passively receive information from the teacher.

Active learning and the theory of constructivism 

 Research shows us that it is not possible to transmit understanding to students by simply telling them what they need to know. Instead, teachers need to make sure that they challenge their students’ thinking by asking effective questions. 

With active learning, students play an important part in their own learning process. They build knowledge and understanding in response to opportunities provided by their teacher. At Reading Girls’ School these opportunities are provided within the classroom by the teacher and also our external providers at Key Stage 3. 

Active learning is based on a theory called constructivism. Constructivism emphasises the fact that learners construct or build their own understanding.  Constructivists argue that learning is a process of 'making meaning'.  Learners develop their existing knowledge and understanding in order to achieve deeper levels of understanding. This means that learners are more able to analyse, evaluate and synthesise ideas (thus achieving the higher order skills of Blooms Taxonomy). These deeper levels of understanding are made more possible at Reading Girls’ School as we provide learning environments, opportunities, interactions, tasks and instruction that foster deep learning. 

The theory of ‘social constructivism’ says that learning happens mainly through social interaction with others, such as a teacher or other students. One social constructivist, Lev Vygotsky (1896 – 1934), developed the idea of the Zone of Proximal Development. This zone lies between what a learner can achieve alone and what a learner can achieve with their teacher’s expert guidance.  Learning is scaffolded by providing guidance and support that challenges students based on their current ability. This helps students to develop their understanding in stages. 

Rich feedback is provided during lessons using Assessment for learning (AFL). AFL helps students to understand two things: firstly their current strengths and weaknesses and secondly what they need to do to improve. AFL activities are sometimes based on formal assessments. However, AFL can also be based on many types of informal assessment which can include peer assessment, where students assess each other.

What are the benefits of active learning? 

Active learning helps students to become 'lifelong learners' and builds their cultural capital. 
In an active learning approach, learning is not only about the content, but is also about the process. Active learning develops students’ autonomy and their ability to learn. Active learning gives students greater involvement and control over their learning. This means that students are better able to continue learning once they have left school. 

Active learning is engaging and intellectually exciting

An active learning approach encourages all students to stay focused on their learning, which will often give them greater enthusiasm for their learning.  

How does deeper applied learning link with TEACH (TLC@RGS)? 

Extensive research has been conducted into deeper applied learning.  5 key areas have been identified, which must be present for deeper applied learning to be effective. These 5 key areas, simultaneously link to the 5 strands of TEACH at Reading Girls’ School. 


Deeper Applied Learning 

Tailor the lesson to meet the needs of individuals 


Appropriate teaching strategies (encourage personalised approach and support independence in learning) 

Explain the learning objectives and success criteria 

Ensuring learners are aware of what they are learning 

Allow students to actively participate in  their learning 

Engagement of learners (REAL) 

Check for student understanding 

Effective assessment (Formative and Summative) 

Have high expectations of students 


High aspirations for learners (which are consistent across their learning experience in the institution) 

Effective deeper applied learning brings relevance and meaning to learners through activities that move them from the classroom to the workplace. Activities should be centre around real investigation and inquiry, based on contact with working professionals and the roles that they do, wherever possible. Learning should be active, but have a purpose and cross different contexts so that learners can apply knowledge, understanding and skills throughout their lives.

The theory and pedagogy of deeper applied learning  

It is important to remember that if their learners understand what they are learning, why they are learning it, how to develop their learning, the relevance of this learning to the real world and how to apply it across contexts, then their learners will be motivated to learn. 

Deeper applied learning should provide opportunities for learners to frequently interact with both adults and their peer groups. What happens in applied learning situation should enhance the capacity of young people to learn, their learning behaviours, and their motivation to learn. If this happens, learners succeed and are initiated into life-long independent learning for their own development and self-efficacy. 

The theory of constructivism suggests that learners construct knowledge out of their experiences and it is often associated with pedagogic approaches that promote active learning or learning by doing. 

Learning will occurs in an environment of trust, where the teacher acts as facilitators for the learner’s own learning needs and ambition.

At Reading Girls’ School, we have developed a curriculum which enables students to construct knowledge out of their experiences.  By developing strong links with the employment sector within the Reading community and developing lessons where active learning (learning by doing) is at the centre of our pedagogical approach.

REAL Lessons – what this looks like at Reading Girls’ School? 

To support deeper applied learning students are provide with opportunities that are REAL – Relevant, Engaging, Active Learning – and grounded in solid subject knowledge to facilitate growing independent learning in a safe and constructive environment, which is inclusive and builds confidence to achieve. 

At the end of all lessons, students are asked, has your lesson been REAL (Relevant, Engaging, Active Learning)? Within the classroom students are encouraged to use the REAL tokens and place them into the ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ pot. This provides instant feedback to the member of staff about the students experience within their classroom.  

At the end of the last academic year: 12,997 tokens were placed into the ‘yes’ pot and 1218 tokens were placed into the ‘no’ pot.