Breadth and Depth of Learning

One useful approach to organizing and describing college-level learning is to think about the breadth and depth of the learning.

Breadth of learning refers to the full span of knowledge of a subject. Depth of learning refers to the extent to which specific topics are focused upon, amplified and explored.

Within any area of study, there will be both breadth and depth of learning, which increase as students advance their knowledge. A college degree represents a focused collection of topics that are interrelated and have breadth and depth within and across those disciplines.

As the evaluator, you need to assess the extent of the student's breadth and depth of knowledge. As part of the assessment, you will determine whether the learning:

The interview can be very helpful in determining breadth and depth by including a variety of questions that encourage the student to discuss both the span and specific details of his or her knowledge around the topics being assessed.

As you begin to define how broad and detailed the student's knowledge is, think about how the extent of it fits within academic structures, such as the level of learning in relation to the first two years or the second two years of an undergraduate degree.