In his book What the Best College Students Do, historian and educator Ken Bain discusses three approaches to learning: surface learning (doing just enough to get by and avoid failure), strategic learning (focusing mostly on grades as proof of success), and deep learning (learning for understanding, critical and creative thinking, and the ability to adapt and apply knowledge to future problems and situations). He contends that deep learning--which includes a creative approach to learning--is the best approach for long-term success.

A TIME magazine article lists and explains several patterns that Bain found in deep learners and that we can integrate into our own work and learning:

  • Pursue passion, not A’s.
  • Get comfortable with failure.
  • Make a personal connection to your studies.
  • Read and think actively.
  • Ask big questions.
  • Cultivate empathy for others.
  • Set goals and make them real.
  • Find a way to contribute. Read More

Have you found one of the above attitudes or habits to be important for your own creativity and deep learning, or is there one that you would like to try to improve during the coming quarter or school year? How can you balance deep learning with the practical need for a decent GPA?

Listen to Ken Bain talk about his findings and suggestions in an interview on the Brian Lehrer radio show. The Brian Lehrer Show: Making a Success of College - WNYC