people around the world (Greenfield, 1984). And children who watched episodes of Sesame Street featuring handicapped children had more positive feelings toward children with disabilities.
However, children can also misinterpret programs about people from different cultures, depending on what they already know (Newcomb and Collins, 1979). Stereotyping represents a powerful effect of watching television that is potentially negative. Children bring sex role stereotypes with them to school that derive from television programs and commercials (Dorr, 1982).
As a powerful visual medium, television creates stereotypes even when there is no intent to sell an image. But experimental studies indicate that such stereotyping effects decrease with children as young as 5 if adults offer critiques of the stereotypic portrayals as the children watch programs (Dorr, 1982). Thus, entertainment programs can educate in positive ways and learned information can be extended through adult guidance and commentary.
In sum, television has an impact on children’s learning that must be taken seriously. But the medium is neither inherently beneficial nor harmful. The content that students watch, and how they watch it, has important effects on what they learn. Especially significant is the fact that informative or educational programming has been shown to have beneficial effects on school achievement and that a preponderance of non-educational, entertainment viewing can have negative effects. Furthermore, the benefits of informative viewing occur despite the fact that the ratio of young children’s viewing tends to be 7:1 in favor of entertainment television. These findings support the wisdom of continued attempts to develop and study television programs that can help students acquire the kinds of knowledge, skills, and attitudes that support their learning in school.
In the beginning of this chapter we noted that the four perspectives on learning environments (the degree to which they are learner, knowledge, assessment, and community centered) would be discussed separately but ultimately needed to be aligned in ways that mutually support one another. Alignment is as important for schools as for organizations in general (e.g., Covey, 1990). A key aspect of task analysis (see Chapter 2) is the idea of aligning goals for learning with what is taught, how it is taught, and how it is assessed (both formatively and summatively). Without this alignment, it is difficult to know what is being learned. Students may be learning valuable information, but one cannot tell unless there is alignment between what they are learning and the assessment of that learning. Similarly, students may be learning things that others don’t value unless curricula and assess-