Deep Approach to Learning: Derive it yourself!

I just read two articles on deep versus surface approaches to learning: “Deep and Surface Approaches to Learning” by Jenni Case and “Deep, surface, and strategic approaches to Learning” by Jack Lublin.

Jack Lublin gives a list of characteristics of a deep approach to learning that includes “interact vigorously with the content”.  To me this actually means having the students engaged with the content.  Today, in IB Biology I was supposed to cover the Hardy-Weinberg principle.  The IB students need to be able to “explain how the Hardy–Weinberg equation is derived” (Assessment statement D.4.1).  Well, is there a better way to learn how to explain it than to actually derive it oneself?  So, I put together a series of guiding questions and problems to help them derive the Hardy-Weinberg equation themselves, additionally determining, on their own, the assumptions that needed to be made in order for the equation to work (assessment statement D.4.3).  Their response?  “This is so cool.”  Additionally, as they then moved into using the equation to tackle questions regarding allele frequencies (assessment statement D.4.2), they manipulated the equation with ease.  The equation, its use, and the assumptions were not just a formula and material to memorize; but rather combatively it all became a principle they truly understood.