Difference Between Deep Learning and Surface Learning (With Table)

Research into the learning patterns of students indicates that there are depths in learning. The depth is the actual amount of data that a student goes through while learning something. Different scenarios have different effects on the learning process of an individual and the depth of learning may vary from deep to just surface level.

Deep Learning vs Surface Learning

The difference between deep learning and surface learning is that deep learning is the process of critically analyzing and understanding the material being studied. On the other hand, surface learning is the process of getting an idea of the study material, by reading through and understanding the concepts. This is a passive approach to learning the material.

Deep learning is the process of actively collecting as well as analyzing the material being studied. The key aspect of deep learning is critical thinking, as it requires constant analysis and rumination of the data being studied. This type of learning is common amongst doctors and scientists, as case studies and experimentations require critical thinking.

Surface learning is a passive form of studying. It is the process of understanding the study material by reading through the concepts. It is the process of outlining the material being studied, without spending much time on the material, while trying to cover as much material as possible. 

Comparison Table Between Deep Learning and Surface Learning

Parameters of ComparisonDeep LearningSurface Learning
DefinitionDeep learning is the process of actively collecting information as well as analyzing the study materialSurface learning is the process of understanding the general idea of the study material, by passively reading through the concepts
Thinking processCritical thinking is required while deep learningPassive thinking is present while surface learning
TargetPerformed to completely understand and analyze the study materialPerformed to obtain a general idea about the study material
Learning processConstant thinking and rumination of the data being studiedOnly reading and getting the general idea of the topic is required
SituationsMost often observed in case of doctors and scientists, and other critical environmentsObserved in everyday situations, where critical thinking is not required

What is Deep Learning?

Deep learning is a critical learning process where the main objective is to collect, analyze and ruminate the data constantly, to completely understand the study material.  There are many ways of accomplishing this. But in all the approaches of deep learning, constant analysis and understanding of the data is the key aspect.

It is the process of understanding everything about the subject being learned, the concepts, the examples, case studies, etc. Accordingly, the study material should also be selected in such a way, that the amount of information in the study material is sufficiently large. Deep learning is a long and arduous process and it requires a lot of time to accomplish the goal of deep learning. Continuous effort is required while learning, as analyzing such a vast amount is difficult.

Thus deep learning requires the learner to invest a considerable amount of time into the actual learning process. Hence deep learning is most often observed among doctors, scientists, engineers, and in general people from such environments, where critical thinking is required. In the aforementioned environments, constant analysis of data is the key aspect, as well as keeping in touch with all the different changes happening in the field of study.

What is Surface Learning?

Surface learning is the process of understanding the general idea of the study material by passively reading through the concepts. The reading is not comprehensive and is done to get an overview of the subject being studied. The main objective of surface learning is to obtain a general idea about the subject, without diving too deep into the study material. Thus surface learning is the process of generating a conceptual idea about the subject.

A surface learner does not spend a lot of time reading through the concepts of the subject. Comprehensive reading is not performed while learning. Thus oftentimes, surface learning is the first step of approaching a new subject. The learner tries to understand the general concept of the subject, before comprehensively studying the subject.

This is more common among people who are learning about a new subject for the first time. In such situations, a new learner would try to create a general understanding of the subject, before deep-diving into the subject. A passive mindset is maintained while performing surface learning. A learner tries to cover as many topics as possible, without spending much time understanding one topic. This is in stark contrast to deep learning, as in deep learning the learner undergoes a thorough learning process, trying to understand every topic thoroughly.  

Main Differences Between Deep Learning and Surface Learning

  1. Deep learning is the process of actively collecting as well analyzing information from the study material. Surface learning is the process understanding the general idea about the study material
  2. Critical thinking is required while deep learning. Passive thinking is present in surface thinking.
  3. Deep learning is performed to completely understand and analyze the study material. Surface learning is performed to obtain a general idea about the study material
  4. Constant thinking and rumination is part of Deep learning. Only reading is performed in Surface learning
  5. Deep learning is commonly observed among doctors and scientists and people working in such critical environments. Surface learning is observed in everyday situations, where critical thinking is not needed.

Conclusion

Learning is a complex process. The human mind performs a lot of analysis, compilation, and general calculation to understand the topic being studied. But the level of computation that the brain performs may vary in different situations. Thus there are two types of studying patterns, Deep learning and Surface learning. Deep learning is a thorough learning process, in which the main objective is to completely understand the study material. This is in stark contrast to Surface learning, where the main objective is to get a general idea about the subject being studied. Thus thorough, comprehensive is not a part of surface learning.

References

  1. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=omivDQAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR5&dq=deep+learning&ots=MNP0cmnIOT&sig=MLWtSt4PGAuLzzOd1KrOs9BpZ-M
  2. https://www.nature.com/articles/nature14539
  3. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/096392897331587
  4. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10459-015-9645-6
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