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Expand Horizons Through Expanded Learning Time

We all know learning is an anytime, anywhere pursuit. I've asked my colleague, Alexis Menten, who heads Asia Society's Afterschool and Youth Leadership Initiatives, to share why global learning is important beyond school as well.

by Alexis Menten

Where better to learn about the world than out in the world?

We've been hearing a lot about "expanded learning time" lately. Education policymakers and district and school leaders are considering how best to increase learning time for all students. The rationale often cited is the need to help American students become more competitive against their peers in other countries, many of whom go to school for more hours per day and more days per year. (See this Washington Post piece on a new study on this topic.)

However, many argue that the discussion should not be centered on how to extend schooling in order to increase learning time, but how to leverage a variety of non-traditional learning experiences and settings in order to improve learning.

These types of learning opportunities include those offered by community-based organizations like museums and libraries, youth-serving organizations like the YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs, and other out-of-school providers, and those assisted by technology tools and platforms.

The distinction between adding more learning time to the school day versus incorporating more learning experiences beyond the school becomes particularly important in the context of educating for global competence.

The definition of global competence includes the ability to investigate the world, recognize perspectives, communicate ideas, and take action. In order to help students achieve these four domains of global competence, many schools are finding that they need to think creatively about how they leverage time, resources, and partnerships beyond the classroom and beyond the school day.

For example, schools with a focus on global competence are

    • extending class periods and school days to offer in-depth seminars that delve deeply into complex global issues and projects.
    • establishing technology-based virtual exchanges after school and in-person travel opportunities during school breaks and summer to help their students experience multiple perspectives firsthand.
    • structuring community-based service learning projects linked back to core curriculum that help students uncover the relevance of local issues in a globalized world and the impact of global issues on local realities.
    • integrating internships that help students apply their recently-acquired global knowledge and skills to real-world contexts.

Out-of-school programs can be strong partners for schools who want to leverage expanded learning time to help their students achieve global competence. Youth-serving organizations share the broad mission to promote student success in work and life in the 21st century. Out-of-school program organization and management is often based on an asset model that values diversity. In order to attract and retain participants, out-of-school programs are centered around youth engagement through hands-on and experiential learning, often with a focus on 21st century skills, service learning, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, and others.

This deep connection between global learning and high-quality out-of-school programming was recently demonstrated when Global Kids, a globally focused afterschool and summer program based in New York City, was awarded a 2011 Excellence in Summer Learning Award from the National Summer Learning Association.

Educators, business leaders, and the general public alike have come to similar conclusions—students graduating from American high schools today are ill-prepared to compete for jobs in a knowledge-based global economy. The need is particularly critical for underserved students. What better way to help students learn about the world, than to take advantage of the many learning opportunities that exist beyond the classroom and beyond the school?

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The opinions expressed in Global Learning are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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