“If we apply the wrong model of learning for the best of reasons, we will never get the results we seek”
The Synthesis, 1996

Ten years after its haltering start, the ideas of Education 2000 had attracted the attention of numbers of significant people in England, as well as in North America and in other countries, especially Canada, Australia and in Scandinavia.  Mounting evidence worldwide was suggesting that traditional education systems were becoming increasingly dysfunctional in the face of escalating technological, social and economic change. In many countries questions were being asked as to why so many young people seemed so ill-prepared for work, or for participation within civil society.

Supported by the Johnson Foundation at Wingspread in Wisconsin, world class researchers, educational innovators, thinkers and policy makers from various lands were invited to meet for a series of six conferences under the auspices of the 21st Century Learning Initiative (which was a re-born version of Education 2000, registered in the USA as a 501c3 charity). Collectively they were convinced that they could take whatever action was needed to exploit the new insights emerging from diverse research programmes into just how it is that people learn-how-to-learn and then translate such findings into practical policies.

The Initiative stated its essential purpose as “being to enquire into as many of these insights as possible; to consider the functioning of human societies, and of learning as a self organising activity. It was to become ever clearer that these changes were, in themselves, all interconnected and reflected the move away from the analytical and reductionist era in science towards the beginning of a more interwoven understanding of natural phenomena, social structures, so as to build upon what was coming to be known about the development of the human brain and intelligence”.

Synthesis – the drawing together of ideas from a number of disparate sources – presents a profound challenge to those conditioned to the principles of Western epistemology which, since the days of Newton, has become ever more confident that the ever finer analysis and reduction of a problem to its constituent bits, yields true wisdom. Eventually some sixty people from fourteen countries attended these six conferences and together contributed to the ideas of the first Synthesis set out in December 1996. This is a most detailed document. It necessitates careful reading for it is probably the best analysis of where thinking about the nature of learning was getting to at the end of the 20th Century. The Synthesis was based on the discussions at Wingspread, while also drawing upon a considerable bibliography suggested by members of the Initiative, many of whom had contributed towards the original primary research. It also drew heavily on a range of published articles mainly, though not entirely, those written in English.


Conferences and Training Programmes from April 1996- 1997 


APRIL 1996 – Dec 1997 Six three-day Conferences at Wingspread, Wisconsin USA
APR International Partnership Conference, Toronto Canada
MAY La Casa Invitational Conference, California US
University of Oxford Department of Education Oxford
JUNE East Anglican Conference East Anglia
Gossamer Institute, Idyllwild, California US
University of Puerto Rico Puerto Rico
AUG North Carolina Center for the Common Good US
SEPT University of Keele Staffordshire
National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC US
NOV Centre for the Study of Comprehensive Schools Newcastle
Visions of a Better World, Princeton University US
Corporate Responsibility Group London
St Julian’s School, Lisbon Portugal
Coventry 2000 Annual General Meeting Coventry
COTE Seminar London


FEB ISACS, Wingspread, Wisconsin USA
St Julian’s School Portugal
Gresham College London
MAR ASCD, Baltimore USA
Harrow Conference Harrow
University of East London London
Nottingham Heads’ Conference Nottingham
MAY Wingspread, Wisconsin USA
JULY Leeds Education 2000 Leeds
A.A.U.E., Wyoming USA
Hugh Christie Technology College, Tonbridge Kent
SEPT Manhattan Institute, New York USA
IMTEC Norway
OCT Didsbury School of Education Didsbury
Warwick Warwick
Leeds Education 2000 Leeds
NOV Wingspread, Wisconsin USA
Melksham Wiltshire

  University of Warwick Warwick
Haberdashers Aske’s Boys School Staff Conference Herts.
Dublin Ireland
University of Bristol Bristol