Offers Vision Of New American Learning System
14, 2000 -- A new millennium and the exuberant promise
of a 2-year-old grandchild serve as the inspiration for a publication
describing the next generation of American schools.
L. Duke, director of the University of Virginias Thomas Jefferson
Center for Educational Design, lays forth his ideas for a new kind
of learning network in "A Design for Alana: Creating the Next
Generation of American Schools," recently published by the
Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.
examining current assumptions about schooling, analyzing areas that
need change and dreaming of what his granddaughter Alanas
education could be, Duke has proposed the design of a learning network
a network of centers, not bricks-and-mortar schools in the
traditional sense. The centers would each have clear, focused missions,
and students would spend as much, or as little, time in the centers
as needed to complete the learning associated with the missions.
students start attending a center, however, they and their parents
would gain information about learning options by visiting an admissions
and placement center. There they would be assigned a learning advisor,
who would oversee diagnostic testing, arrange visits to area learning
centers and draft an education plan.
advisor would continue to work with his or her students during the
duration of their participation in the learning network. After working
with youth from approximately age 4 until 18, the learning advisors
would become well-acquainted with students and their needs. The
advisors would make referrals to specialists, if needed, and maintain
the students permanent records.
advisors would make sure that parents and students are informed
about available learning options at area centers and assist them
in making sound choices," said Duke, a professor of educational
leadership in U.Va.s Curry School of Education, who has written
or edited 20 books and nearly 150 articles related to education
most students, the first assignment in the learning network would
be to an early childhood center near their home. Designed to feel
home-like and cozy, the centers would offer instruction in reading,
writing and other basics.
length of time that students would remain at the center would depend
on their academic progress and social maturation. When students
master basic skills and demonstrate the capacity to work on their
own for long periods of time and to study with more than one instructor,
they could begin work at an academic center," said Duke.
next rung in the learning-network ladder would be academic centers,
which would have instructors teaching varied subjects. The instructors,
some of whom could be private practitioners or independent contractors,
would offer courses and independent study opportunities. Courses
would look more like college offerings than typical middle- and
high-school selections. Students would attend courses once or twice
a week to receive and discuss new material. During the rest of the
week, they would study at neighborhood community learning centers.
learning centers would be smaller, more personalized environments,
ideally within walking distance of students homes. At the
centers students would complete course assignments and projects
under the supervision of learning specialists, who would possess
general expertise in research design, writing and study skills.
The learning specialists would stay in close contact with instructors
at the academic centers. At the community centers, which would be
open from early morning to late evening, students would have work
stations with computers that would allow them electronic access
to the academic center.
equip students who move into areas with learning-center networks
and to offer remedial help, Duke envisions transition centers. They
would give students the skills and knowledge needed to function
at an early childhood, academic or community learning center.
also envisions satellite and specialty learning centers. These would
take advantage of an areas distinctive features and would,
for example, offer classes in corporate business parks, museums,
shopping malls and zoos.
we recognize that there are alternative paths to knowledge, then
a semester or year at a non-school learning environment may be just
the right option for certain students who fail to connect at an
academic center," Duke said.
also envisions residential learning centers that would give students
an opportunity to leave dysfunctional homes and neighborhoods.
rung in the network ladder would be educational partnerships that
would allow students who learn quickly to seek advanced learning
opportunities at community colleges or four-year higher-education
components of the network could include virtual learning centers,
youth service centers, adult education centers, apprenticeship programs
and foreign study.
great promise of the new millennium is that we have learned enough
from more than a century of experimentation with public schooling
to recognize the value and necessity of customized learning. The
one best system for the new millennium will be the system
that offers my granddaughter and her peers the broadest and best-designed
series of learning options," Duke said.
of Dukešs Design for a Learning Network
and placement centers
Community learning centers
Satellite and specialty learning centers
Virtual learning centers
Ida Lee Wootten, (804) 924-6857