Often, alternative learning programs are a necessity for students who are experiencing a variety of challenges. They may be struggling with academic, social or behavioral issues. These programs often provide a safe learning environment and support the development of individual student talents and abilities. The goal is to prepare these youth for a college or career path. Alternative education can be found in state schools, private schools, charter schools, or home-based learning environments.
While there is no universal definition of what alternative learning is, some people think of it as a branch off from traditional schooling. Alternative educational methods and approaches are diverse from cultural to geographic setting, and they vary in how information is delivered to students. However, there are some basic pedagogical techniques and tools that can be used in virtually any classroom.
A simple definition of alternative learning is: “An educational method or process that allows a student to learn in a way that best suits his/her individual needs, strengths and interests.” This can be in the form of a virtual learning environment, online courses, or in the classroom. It can also involve a variety of pedagogical techniques and methods, including:
An alternative learning space is an innovative solution. These spaces are usually designated locations during the school day where students can engage in a number of different pedagogical practices. In addition, they can be an important source of supervision and social distancing for students. Many of these spaces are located in community centers and are free of charge. Other places where they may be found are existing school buildings and conference rooms.
Some educational alternatives are focused on small class sizes and emphasize the close relationship between teachers and students. Others are focused on creating an inclusive community. All of these alternatives, however, have one thing in common: they emphasize learning styles.
Another alternative learning concept is the “worldschooling” method. According to Eli Gerzon, this is “a form of experiential learning where children travel to various countries and are taught in a variety of ways.”
While not all educational alternatives share a lot of similarities, they all share certain features. For example, alternative learning programs often foster the exchange of practices and strategies. Similarly, some educational alternatives, such as Montessori, emphasize a child’s independence, while others, such as Waldorf, focus more on the art of learning.
Educational alternatives are designed to meet the unique needs of students and the community. For instance, a student with a special life situation such as cancer or juvenile detention may benefit from an alternative education program. At the same time, an independent learner may find the traditional classroom environment stifling.
One of the more intriguing things about alternative learning is the variety of pedagogical approaches that can be implemented in a classroom or any other location. The benefits of this type of education include a more varied experience for students and a better understanding of material.
The most important thing to remember about alternative learning is that it requires the involvement of all stakeholders. Those involved in the education process must take note of the most effective and efficient pedagogical techniques to ensure that the students’ educational needs are met.