Tuesday, January 13, 2015

New Afterschool Jargon: "Expanded" or "Extended" Learning

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
The afterschool and summer learning movement is not immune from collecting new jargon. As we move forward, there are two new terms that are being used in often confusing ways. Those terms are "expanded learning" and "extended learning". How are these terms different and are they meant to replace "afterschool" and "summer learning" programs? To add to the confusion, they are being used in different ways depending on what part of the country you come from.

To help us better understand these terms, we interviewed a host of afterschool leaders to ask them to help clarify. We begin with an interview with Jennifer Peck, Executive Director, Partnership for Children and Youth. We will follow this post with interviews with other afterschool leaders. 

Q: The term “expanded learning” is used differently by different people in different parts of the country. Can you give your definition of “expanded learning time and programs"?

Jennifer Peck,
Executive Director
Partnership for
Children and Youth
A: I’m going to refer to the definition developed with the After School Division at California Department of Education (CDE), which I think captures it well: Expanded Learning Time is defined as before and after school, summer and intersession learning programs that focus on developing the academic, social, emotional and physical needs and interests of students through hands-on, engaging learning experiences. Expanded learning programs should be student-centered, results-driven, include community partners, and complement but not replicate learning activities in the regular school day/year.

Q: In your mind, what is the difference between the terms “expanded learning” and “extended learning”? 

A: I want to be careful here because they are just terms, and they often get used interchangably without a lot of intention.  But in my mind, “extended learning” implies an extension of the regular school day or year, or simply more time.  But we know time in and of itself isn’t enough.  When we say “expanded”, it’s not limited to time – it also refers to the different kinds of experiences we want young people to have as part of their overall educational experience.  “Expanding” learning means bringing learning to life in new and different ways that are hopefully engaging and exciting and relevant to young people. Schools and expanded learning programs can and should be expanding learning for all students – and ideally doing it with some coherence and alignment of effort.

Q: Are you hoping that the field begins using the terms “expanded learning programs” to replace “afterschool and summer programs”? 

A: We have certainly been pushing that in our own work, because we believe that the word “learning” is critical to include in descriptions of what we do, especially as we work hard to create more coherence between schools and expanded learning program providers.  However, we will need to continue to articulate the “when”, since the expanded learning term is still relatively new and can be perplexing to our partners in the K-12 education world. 

However, as much as we like the expanded learning language, what we call it isn’t, in the end, the most important thing. Some providers have adopted “extended” because it’s more clear to their school partners.  Whether it’s expanded, extended, or the good old fashioned “after school”, it’s most important that programs are expanding horizons for kids, as well as striving to embody all the principles laid out in the Learning in Afterschool & Summer frame. 

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