Whole Child Approach to Learning - We Need it More than Ever!

The pandemic has increased student misbehavior. Why is this happening?

 Whole Child Approach to Learning - We Need it More than Ever!

How is the 2022- 2023 school year going? Ask any teacher, counselor, principal, or district leader- and many will give the same response, “It is a tough year!”  A National Center for Education Statistics survey found that 56% of school administrators think the pandemic has increased student misbehavior.

Why Is This Happening?

As an administrator, I have been in many student disciplinary meetings with families. One meeting stands clear in my mind. As I began to talk about their child’s behavior, a parent stopped me and told me, “Don't you dare blame this behavior on the pandemic.” That sentence stopped me and caused me to rethink the increased negative behaviors exhibited on campus.  I came to the realization that the pandemic itself did not cause increased misbehavior. Academically and socially, students fell behind. Despite returning to in-person learning almost two years ago, misbehavior has only increased.

What Can Be the Solution? 

The pandemic shook up the rhythm of our lives. Overnight, students who once were together in the classroom were separated from their peers, and their only means of connection were on a computer screen.  This is not how we, as humans, are meant to learn and to work with others.   “Human beings are wired to connect – and we have the most complex and interesting social behavior out of all animals,” said Michael Platt, Ph.D., a biological anthropologist from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. “This social behavior is a critical part of our adaptive toolkit. It allows us to come together and do things that we wouldn’t be able to do on our own.” 

Thinking of that adaptive toolkit, educators must introduce practices that will support our students–Whole Child Education. For example, as opposed to focusing only on students' academic achievements, the whole-child approach focuses on their well-being beyond the classroom. Rather than just focusing on academic preparation, this pedagogy emphasizes the importance of preparing students for the future. In whole-child education, students are encouraged to become well-rounded, productive members of society who can deal with everyday challenges in a healthy manner.

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Engage students with EMS 360, coming soon to EdBrix.

What Does a Whole Child Classroom Look Like? 

The teacher's role in the Whole Child Approach is to encourage students to grow in every area of their lives. As a whole child, you will find curiosity, creativity, empathy, and confidence in them. 

According to the Association for Supervision and Curricuculum Development,  A whole child classroom has the following tenants

  • Healthy: Student health education is crucial to fostering healthy habits such as following a healthy diet, abstaining from alcohol and drugs, exercising regularly, etc. A healthy body can help create a healthy mind.
  • Safe: Bullying, harassment, abuse, and neglect can threaten the safety and concentration of a student. Teachers can create safe classrooms by implementing consistent rules that are written collaboratively with their students.
  • Supported: Students need to be able to trust their teacher. Students should feel positive and accepted within the classroom by the teacher and the other students. They should be encouraged to contribute to the overall development of the classroom.
  • Engaged: Students can engage in learning by using interactive projects, project-based learning, and design thinking concepts. Increased interest and motivation help enhance student engagement and participation, which are key factors in improving learning in the classroom.
  • Challenged: Assessment strategies can be modified to challenge students to do their best. These assessments can be creative and fun for the students. Students should be encouraged to demonstrate their knowledge in an inspired and productive way.

The whole child approach to learning necessitates modifying the educational process and the classroom environment to address and strengthen the social emotional learning of the students, ultimately producing a generation of self-assured students who have developed holistically.

Immordino-Yang, M. H., Darling-Hammond, L., & Krone, C. R. (2019). Nurturing nature: How brain development is inherently social and emotional, and what this means for education. Educational Psychologist, 54(3), 185-204.

Purnell, J. Q., Lobb Dougherty, N., Kryzer, E. K., Bajracharya, S., Chaitan, V. L., Combs, T., ... & Brown, M. (2020). Research to translation: the healthy schools toolkit and new approaches to the whole school, whole community, whole child model. Journal of School Health, 90(12), 948-963.

Răducu, C. M., & Stănculescu, E. (2022). Personality and socio-demographic variables in teacher burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic: a latent profile analysis. Scientific Reports, 12(1), 14272.