In Search of Deeper Learning: The Quest to Remake the American High School

Sarah Fine (Author) Jal Mehta (Author)


"The best book on high school dynamics I have ever read."--Jay Mathews, Washington Post

An award-winning professor and an accomplished educator take us beyond the hype of reform and inside some of America's most innovative classrooms to show what is working--and what isn't--in our schools.

What would it take to transform industrial-era schools into modern organizations capable of supporting deep learning for all? Jal Mehta and Sarah Fine's quest to answer this question took them inside some of America's most innovative schools and classrooms--places where educators are rethinking both what and how students should learn.

The story they tell is alternately discouraging and hopeful. Drawing on hundreds of hours of observations and interviews at thirty different schools, Mehta and Fine reveal that deeper learning is more often the exception than the rule. And yet they find pockets of powerful learning at almost every school, often in electives and extracurriculars as well as in a few mold-breaking academic courses. These spaces achieve depth, the authors argue, because they emphasize purpose and choice, cultivate community, and draw on powerful traditions of apprenticeship. These outliers suggest that it is difficult but possible for schools and classrooms to achieve the integrations that support deep learning: rigor with joy, precision with play, mastery with identity and creativity.

This boldly humanistic book offers a rich account of what education can be. The first panoramic study of American public high schools since the 1980s, In Search of Deeper Learning lays out a new vision for American education--one that will set the agenda for schools of the future.

Product Details

$29.95  $27.55
Harvard University Press
Publish Date
April 09, 2019
6.3 X 1.5 X 9.3 inches | 1.74 pounds

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About the Author

Sarah Fine is a faculty member at the High Tech High Graduate School of Education and a Lecturer in Education Studies at the University of California, San Diego. She has taught in Washington, D.C., and Chula Vista, California.
Jal Mehta is Associate Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a recipient of the Morningstar Award. He is author of The Allure of Order: High Hopes, Dashed Expectations, and the Troubled Quest to Remake American Schooling.


In their brave search for depth in American high schools, scholars Jal Mehta and Sarah Fine suffered many disappointments... Undeterred, they spent 750 hours observing classes, interviewed more than 300 people, and produced the best book on high school dynamics I have ever read.--Jay Mathews"Washington Post" (03/01/2019)
Lucid and engaging... The authors offer lively vignettes, a framework grounded in history and research, and a powerful, precise, and organized critical analysis. Mehta and Fine's account of a holistic model for cultivating 'learners ready to meet the challenges of the modern world' will be as accessible to an intelligent parent as to a school board administrator.-- (03/01/2019)
This vision of teaching offers some hope for the future...This work will challenge educators to rethink how adolescents should learn...For those who are ready to transform schools.--Library Journal (03/08/2019)
Not since The Good High School and Horace's Compromise in the 1980s has there been a book which so comprehensively examines the American high school. In Search of Deeper Learning offers vivid examples of joyful and engaging classrooms along with keen insights about what it will take to make these kinds of classrooms the norm rather than the exception in our schools. A must-read for anyone interested in the fate of the American high school.--Linda Darling-Hammond, President and CEO, Learning Policy Institute
In Search of Deeper Learning is both theoretically sophisticated and deeply accessible. This is the first and only book to depict not just the constraints on good teaching, but also how good teachers transcend them. A superb book in every way: timely, lively, and entertaining.--Jonathan Zimmerman, University of Pennsylvania
This book is a remarkably fresh, balanced, research-based look at American high schools. It is a powerful provocation for discussing what a good high school is, and what good teaching looks like. Every high school faculty should use it as a common read: it will open minds and shatter stereotypes.--Ron Berger, Chief Academic Officer, EL Education
In Search of Deeper Learning is a dazzling book that takes us on a fantastic journey into what the depths of learning look like, and why they are so tantalizingly beyond our current collective grasp. Read every page of this stunning portrayal of what would be required to save society through deep learning, while recognizing the sandbags of inertia that laden the status quo.--Michael Fullan, Global Leadership Director, New Pedagogies for Deep Learning
A hopeful, easy-to-read narrative on what the best teachers do and what deep, engaging learning looks like for students. Grab this text if you're looking for a celebration of what's possible in American schools.-- (06/25/2019)
Having discovered how the best environments promote deeper learning, Mehta and Fine suggest ways teachers and schools can apply some of these principles to their classrooms and hallways.--Linda Flanagan"MindShift" (05/27/2019)