1) Review: Introduction, Description, Objectives, and Key Concepts of lesson
2) Complete: Activity 1: Education as a Continuum
3) Read: Material in Your Essential Library
5) Complete: Activity 2: Exploring Different Levels of Education
The first two lessons in Strand One: Birth through Grade 12 as a Continuum and a Single System have focused on the distinguishing features of different levels of education and the different systems under which they operate. The first two strands have emphasized the commonalities and distinctions between and among different education levels and systems. Now, in Lesson 1.3, the focus turns to strategies to better integrate education levels and systems to create a more cohesive learning continuum. To create a learning continuum, Lesson 1.3 emphasizes the importance of leadership, alignment, communication, and collaboration to build more continuous and consistent educational experiences for students. In the final lesson (1.4) of Strand One, strategies are presented to promote smooth transitions throughout the continuum.
This lesson focuses on understanding birth through grade 12 as a single continuum of learning, in which the early childhood years (birth-3rd grade) lay the foundation for later development, learning, and academic success through the elementary-, middle-, and high school years It explores the concept of a continuum and the evidence-based practices that contribute to, or detract from, a cohesive birth through grade 12 learning continuum.
After completing this lesson, students should be able to:
Learning (and development) occurs on a continuum from birth through adulthood.
Education is—or should be—a progression that supports students from their earliest learning experiences, through their growing years and formal schooling, and into adulthood. The learning continuum is typically conceived of as a Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12 span (P-12). The continuum is sometimes also defined as a Pre-Kindergarten through post-secondary span (P-20).
Alignment is important to enhancing learning across the continuum.
Optimal results occur when adults in the child’s life take an active role in ensuring that learning experiences are aligned. This includes horizontal alignment (all instructional activities, assessment practices, and standards in a grade/age level are coordinated), vertical alignment (there is a natural and smooth progression from one age/grade level to another), and temporal alignment (there is a deliberate plan across a school year). This may also include alignment of services across systems for specialized education services.
The Pre-Kindergarten to 3rd Grade span is a critical band in the education continuum.
Although building a seamless learning continuum from Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12 and beyond is important, the P-3 (alternately PreK-3) band is arguably the most critical period of time in the continuum. Students' early education experiences set the tone for their success as they transition through the learning continuum. Thus these earliest years in the education continuum present an enormous opportunity for school leaders to establish a vision of academic success for all students and create a climate that supports young learners in developmentally appropriate ways.
Building an effective continuum requires a cultural change.
There is a pervasive lack of communication, collaboration, and shared standards among different levels. Shared data is limited, and there are misperceptions about the nature and value of the work performed along the learning continuum. There is also a system-wide resistance to working outside organizational boundaries, which people often describe as working in silos. In some ways, change agents may find that the various organizations are so different in their structures, policies, practices, philosophical approaches, and funding streams, that it seems they are not even part of the same system. It is important to be aware of these barriers.
Communication and collaboration are key to building an effective continuum.
Whether they work in a private early childhood program, a public high school, or any other setting devoted to childhood learning and development, all adults share the goal of nurturing a student through the learning process. However, they are often not coordinated in their efforts. In many communities, people at one level of education do not regularly communicate in a meaningful way with those from other levels. It is important for practices at one level to inform and support those at other levels. This occurs through regular communication and shared professional development.
Improving the continuum requires leadership.
Leaders can start by modeling learning about the research, standards, and practices used in other levels of education and reaching out and building personal relationships with leaders in other settings. In this way, they will model the behaviors they expect from their staff. Leaders should also work with their staff to align expectations, learning experiences, and curriculum with those at both the previous and next chronological levels in the continuum. Most importantly, leaders should create conditions to support communication and collaboration, shared professional development efforts, and smooth transitions.
LINC has identified the following resources as the most essential current resources to help you inform yourself on this topic. You should peruse each of these resources prior to teaching this lesson. If you would like to complete additional research in this topic, there are optional resources in the Additional Resources for Further Study section.
To synthesize the material completed thus far in this lesson, consider the following through either small group discussion or individual writing response:
Activity 1: Education as a Continuum
The pre-lesson activity should be completed prior to reading the material in Your Essential Library or participating in the discussion/writing response.
Activity 2: Identifying Continuous Learning Strategies and Experiences
The post-lesson activity is designed to help students grow their knowledge of the learning continuum. It should be completed after the rest of the lesson has finished.