ments are aligned with the broad learning goals of communities (Lehrer and Shumow, 1997).

A systems approach to promote coordination among activities is needed to design effective learning environments (Brown and Campione, 1996). Many schools have checklists of innovative practices, such as the use of collaborative learning, teaching for understanding and problem solving, and using formative assessment. Often, however, these activities are not coordinated with one another. Teaching for understanding and problem solving may be “what we do on Fridays”; collaborative learning may be used to promote memorization of fact-based tests; and formative assessments may focus on skills that are totally disconnected from the rest of the students’ curriculum. In addition, students may be given opportunities to study collaboratively for tests yet be graded on a curve so that they compete with one another rather than trying to meet particular performance standards. In these situations, activities in the classroom are not aligned.

Activities within a particular classroom may be aligned yet fail to fit with the rest of the school. And a school as a whole needs to have a consistent alignment. Some schools communicate a consistent policy about norms and expectations for conduct and achievement. Others send mixed messages. For example, teachers may send behavior problems to the principal, who may inadvertently undermine the teacher by making light of the students’ behavior. Similarly, schedules may or may not be made flexible in order to accommodate in-depth inquiry, and schools may or may not be adjusted to minimize disruptions, including nonacademic “pullout” programs and even the number of classroom interruptions made by a principal’s overzealous use of the classroom intercom. Overall, different activities within a school may or may not compete with one another and impede overall progress. When principals and teachers work together to define a common vision for their entire school, learning can improve (e.g., Barth, 1988, 1991; Peterson et al., 1995).

Activities within schools must also be aligned with the goals and assessment practices of the community. Ideally, teachers’ goals for learning fit with the curriculum they teach and the school’s goals, which in turn fit the goals implicit in the tests of accountability used by the school system. Often these factors are out of alignment. Effective change requires a simultaneous consideration of all these factors (e.g., Bransford et al., 1998). The new scientific findings about learning provide a framework for guiding systemic change.


The goals and expectations for schooling have changed quite dramatically during the past century, and new goals suggest the need to rethink

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