knowledge available within extended families and their communities, and the attitudes that family members display toward the skills and values of schooling.
The success of the family as a learning environment, especially in the early years, has provided inspiration and guidance for some of the changes recommended in schools. The rapid development of children from birth to ages 4 or 5 is generally supported by family interactions in which children learn by observing and interacting with others in shared endeavors. Conversations and other interactions that occur around events of interest with trusted and skilled adults and child companions are especially powerful environments for learning. Many of the recommendations for changes in schools can be seen as extensions of the learning activities that occur within families. In addition, recommendations to include families in classroom activities and educational planning hold promise of bringing together two powerful systems for supporting children’s learning.
Classroom environments are positively influenced by opportunities to interact with parents and community members who take interest in what they are doing. Teachers and students more easily develop a sense of community as they prepare to discuss their projects with people who come from outside the school and its routines. Outsiders can help students appreciate similarities and differences between classroom environments and everyday environments; such experiences promote transfer of learning by illustrating the many contexts for applying what they know.
Parents and business leaders represent examples of outside people who can have a major impact on student learning. Broad-scale participation in school-based learning rarely happens by accident. It requires clear goals and schedules and relevant curricula that permit and guide adults in ways to help children learn.
Designing effective learning environments includes considering the goals for learning and goals for students. This comparison highlights the fact that there are various means for approaching goals of learning, and furthermore, that goals for students change over time. As goals and objectives have changed, so has the research base on effective learning and the tools that students use. Student populations have also shifted over the years. Given these many changes in student populations, tools of technology, and society’s requirements, different curricula have emerged along with needs for new pedagogical approaches that are more child-centered and more culturally sensitive, all with the objectives of promoting effective learning and adaptation (transfer). The requirement for teachers to meet such a diversity of challenges also illustrates why assessment needs to be a tool to help teach-