Alternative education

In their review of alternative education, Lange & Sletten1 identify the following common characteristics: an emphasis on maintaining a small size/small groups; close one-one-one relationships between participants and facilitators; a supportive environment; the use of democratic decision-making; and a focus on what is relevant for an individual’s future.

These features are very consistent with the features of settings associated with community peer-based programs: youth friendly; rules/norms established by group; balance of power; voluntary participation/self paced learning; variable outcomes acceptable; and flexibility.

Lange & Sletten1 go on to summarise the key elements of alternative education models underlying their effectiveness. The elements in common with community peer-based programs are:

  • Setting clear goals
  • Autonomy
  • Learner-centred
  • Training and support for staff who work with at-risk youth
  • Links to multiple agencies.


  1. Lange, C. and S. Sletten (2002). Alternative Education: A Brief History and Research Synthesis. Alexandria, VA, Project FORUM at National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE).