Mehta, J. and Fine, S. (2019). In Search of Deeper Learning: The Quest to Remake the American High School. Cambridge Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. 

Review by Cassandra L. Patrizio, Academic Advising MS student, Kansas State University, [email protected]

With In Search of Deeper Learning: The Quest to Remake the American High School, authors Mehta and Fine attempted to study those American high schools that are considered the best at helping students, particularly disadvantaged ones, flourish and thrive. What they end up discovering is no school has truly cracked the code on offering comprehensive deeper learning to high school students. Their study evolved to study multiple schools, sometimes even individual classrooms, offering a variety of solutions in the hopes that the resulting data would be useful in providing direction for a new way forward with public education.

This book is useful for academic advisors to understand the current state of secondary public education in America and what is being tried in various places to enhance students learning beyond simply studying to a test. The idea of deeper learning, “an umbrella term that has emerged over the past decade to encompass a range of desirable attributes of schooling” and that “schooling needs to move beyond rote learning and shallow testing” (Mehta & Fine, 2019, p. 10) speaks to many of NACADA’s Core Values but most specifically commitment (NACADA core values, 2017). Advisors that are committed to students and their total development are going to embrace the ideas within this book about building upon skill and mastery and looking for ways outside of the ridged definitions of what school should be to help students to develop their whole selves. The challenge, as illustrated in the book, is that there is no one prescribed path being used in American high schools to help students with total development.

Most deeper learning seems to happen in the peripheral or extracurricular activities. The authors found that all peripheral activities share key features for deeper learning. While the authors note that some argue extracurriculars take away from the main academic mission, this study has provided a different argument; “these peripheral spaces have some distinctive advantages in fostering serious learning that could make them a model for more traditionally academic spaces within the school” (Mehta & Fine, 2019, p. 255). Academic advising lives in these spaces, empowering students to take control of their academic lives and caring about student’s whole self both inside and outside the classroom.

The most relevant Core Competency area would be informational (NACADA core competencies, 2017) although the focus of the book is on high school rather than higher education so it’s not a perfect fit. There is not much in this particular book that will help academic advisors in their every day jobs but again, it’s useful for a broad look at the system their advisees navigated daily.

Ultimately Mehta and Fine find that the only way that public education will have a true overhaul around to an environment that educates the student as a whole is if “public school leaders – governors, mayors, superintendents, principals, teachers and even students – make a loud, sustained, and convincing case for deeper learning” (Mehta & Fine, 2019, p. 400). I would recommend this book as a reference for advisors that want to prepare for incoming freshman classes and what positive and negative experiences they may be bringing with them.


Mehta, J. and Fine, S. (2019). In Search of Deeper Learning: The Quest to Remake the American High School. Cambridge Massachusetts: Harvard University Press

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA core values of academic advising. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreValues.aspx

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA academic advising core competencies model. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreCompetencies.aspx



Posted in: Book Review
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |