Applying Our Knowledge

We now have the tools to create community learning centers
appropriate to the needs of our time

One of the articles in The Learning Revolution (IC#27)
Originally published in Winter 1991 on page 60
Copyright (c)1991, 1996 by Context Institute

In the 1988 joint issue of IN CONTEXT with New Horizons for Learning (IC #18), we concluded that it was urgent to recognize that human development is much more complex, richer, and more flexible than many current educational approaches acknowledge. That understanding is being applied to educational planning and practice in growing numbers of schools, where it is recognized that every student can learn. The results are remarkable in ghettos and upper middle class neighborhoods alike.

We also discussed a growing number of community learning centers and what they could offer to students of all ages. Let us offer one example to illustrate these trends, as well as most of the other trends we listed in 1988 – including integrative education, recognition of individual differences in learning styles, wise use of technology, restructuring the school day, collaborative/school-based planning, and rewarding success.

Two years ago, the Fidalgo Elementary School in Anacortes, WA, was chosen as one of Washington’s "Schools for the 21st Century." This program, instigated by Governor Booth Gardner, supports innovation by giving selected schools a small stipend, extra planning time, and the option of requesting waivers of state regulations.

The principal and teachers at Fidalgo have turned the school into an active community learning center appropriate to the unique characteristics of Anacortes, which is a small fishing town with trade connections with Japan. Fidalgo Elementary School is affiliated with a sister school in Japan, has an exchange program for the teachers, and offers Japanese instruction both to students and members of the community.

The school is based on an Integrated Learning System designed to increase student intellectual and academic achievement through the use of intelligence training and learning styles methods. The students learn in multiple-age groupings, rather than traditional grade levels, as a way to promote greater affective, social and academic growth. Remediation programs are focused on identifying strengths through which to learn, rather than hammering away at disabilities by having students work longer and harder on what they cannot do. The integrated, thematic curriculum offers learning in a meaningful context, often with several subjects being taught through a central theme.

The school opens early in the day and remains open after school to offer a latchkey program. Adult education classes are also offered during afternoons and evenings. The technology program, coordinated by the local Educational Service District, offers computer training to both students and parents, and many other programs are taught and attended by members of the community.

Incentive for the teachers to learn all the new skills involved has been created by offering credit towards a Master’s Degree from nearby Western Washington University. Most of the teachers have during the last two years already completed this degree.

The responsiveness of this program to community needs is evident. Community members are enthusiastic, the atmosphere of the school is electric, and the eyes of the students and teachers are bright with enthusiasm. But what about student achievement? In 1985-88, the Average Total Battery MAT Score was 71st percentile, and did not include students in ESL (English as a Second Language) and Special Education programs. In 1989-90, students who were there both years scored in the 80th percentile, including ESL and Special Education students, but not including students in the Challenge (gifted) Program.

All sixth grade students this year placed in the Seventh Grade curriculum or higher, and 85% of students in remediation programs finished at grade level. During the last two years, students in the Challenge Classroom (grades 3 through 6) scored at the 99th percentile on MAT tests.

This is only one example of numerous schools that are no longer accepting failure as inevitable for some students, and instead are assuring success in learning for all. We believe that the key to such success lies in creating positive learning environments in which students can actively learn through their strengths and many kinds of intelligence.

As growing numbers of schools discover and implement ways to help all students to learn, it becomes even more essential to make their methods broadly available to all educators. Technology offers the means for the multi-media storage and dissemination which will make this possible. In the last two years, a technology network has linked all schools in the State of Maryland to a database that can make available information on many kinds of teaching/learning strategies, and also allows teachers and administrators to dialogue with each other as they learn and apply new skills. The National Education Association’s recent Mastery in Learning project linked schools with the Boyer, Sizer, and Goodlad networks, with universities, and with each other through computers.

It is just a matter of time until we have an international electronic research and development center which will be available to all teachers, and which will free them from the terrible sense of isolation that many experience. Such a system will make available to all a vital collegial support-system and inexhaustible resources in all modalities.

A GLOBAL CHARTER

In 1985, in Rio de Janeiro, there was a conference of the International Association of Accelerative Learning. At that conference, Linda MacRae-Campbell and I participated with over 200 people from many different countries in creating a Global Charter that began with the following:

"Every Human Being shall be guaranteed opportunities to develop his/her capacities to the fullest extent possible through formal and informal education as a lifelong process.

"Among the highest priorities of any country should be the education of each Human Being, beginning with parents and other caretakers as first teachers, helping them to learn ways to lay the foundations of intelligence from pre-birth on. Teachers and others responsible for the development of human capacities must have available the most current, well-researched information on teaching and learning, taking into consideration respect for individual and cultural differences.

"A world-wide data-bank should be developed to facilitate the sharing of this information, translated on request into any language. Educational systems utilizing this information must help each individual to learn how to learn and how to think analytically and creatively in order to help each country solve the complex problems of our time, not only locally but globally.

"World peace depends on the fullest development of each Human Being in mind, body, and spirit."

The time has come to move this Charter into reality. The technology has been created, the research and information are available, and the world desperately needs human beings who have been given the opportunity to develop all of their capacities in order to create a positive future for humanity. It can be done.


About New Horizons For Learning

New Horizons for Learning is a non-profit, international human resources network, founded in 1980 to offer an expanded vision of possibilities in human development. The network is focused on synthesizing and communicating leading-edge educational research, theory, and practice through the newsletter, On the Beam, and through international conferences, network meetings, and seminars throughout the world. Members are offered resources and encouraged to develop local networks in their own geographical areas. A handbook on creating such educational networks is available.

Memberships are $25 per year (Active), $26-99 (Sustaining), $100 or more (Patron), and $250 (Corporate), and include a subscription to On the Beam.

To become a member, send check or charge card number with your name, address, and professional affiliation to New Horizons for Learning, 4649 Sunnyside North, Seattle, WA 98103 or call (206) 547-7936.

CONFERENCE ON ACCELERATIVE LEARNING

A joint conference of New Horizons for Learning and the Society for Accelerative Learning and Teaching (SALT) will be held in Seattle on April 26-28. It will feature Dr. Georgi Lozanov, Bulgarian creator of accelerative learning techniques (see Accelerated Learning this issue) and a host of other internationally recognized researchers and practitioners in this field. For a brochure or further information contact New Horizons for Learning at the above address.

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