Challenging the Whole Child

It seems so obvious that we would want to educate the whole child.

ASCD published last spring the start to a series of e-books on the “Whole Child”. The first one issued was free for a time and is now for sale (an interesting and noble model).

I first became aware of them in a post on the Generation Yes blog by Sylvia Martinez who has an article called "Working with Tech-Savvy Kids" in that first issue.

ASCD's newest e-book, Challenging the Whole Child: Reflections on Best Practices in Learning, Teaching, and Leadership, was also free for a short time, but I didn't catch the August 16 deadline. I downloaded it and have been reading.

Of course, "child" makes us think K-12, so I have been looking for ways to apply this to the higher education world.

The whole child concept looks at making sure that students enter school healthy and learn about a healthy lifestyle. It strives for students learning in intellectually challenging environment and that the learning space be physically and emotionally safe for the students and adults. It looks at community - that each student is actively engaged in learning and is connected to the school and broader community. It aims for graduates who are challenged by a well-balanced curriculum and are prepared for success in their further study or for employment in a global environment.

The School of Athens, fresco by Raphael (1509–1510), of an idealized Academy.

How to adapt this to higher education? Not very difficult. Change whole child to whole student. I don't think our objectives are so different. What is different is that in higher education teachers very much see their classroom as its own community and often don't consider the larger community or concerns beyond the teaching of their own content. I find that to be less true the further you move down the grade levels. And K-12 schools are much more concerned with their school as a community (and the actual community around them) than colleges. Obviously, most colleges are much larger and it's more difficult to foster community, and there are efforts from freshman orientation, learning communities and even sports to create a sense of comunity.

How often do professors take into account the whole student when they create a course syllabus or (if they do such a thing at all outside assessments) when they think about the goals, objectives and learning outcomes for their course?

I hear a few chuckles from the academy. It does sound idealized - especially if you have worked in the less han idealized world of academia for awhile.

It might be a good idea to check out their site and monitor the ASCD site for the next installment. (You have to go through their shopping cart and order page to download them even when they are free.) If you want to get a better idea about this, take a look a some sample chapters (PDF). There is also a companion study guide for sale and their free Whole Child Blog. Both will give you a sense of their goals.


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