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Blog Sep 2, 2021

3 Things to Focus on Right Now to Ignite Learning

Female teacher and fifth-grade student with masks

Photo: Allison Shelley for EDUimages

The start of this school year isn’t what anyone hoped it would be. ​Concerns about perceived learning loss and students’ and teachers’ physical safety in light of the Delta variant, as well as arguments over such issues as masking and teaching anti-racism, have clouded our excitement about returning to school. The well-being of all students and staff must be our foremost priority.​

But disruption can also present opportunity: This year, let’s reimagine how we go back to the school environments and relationships we cherish.

By creating learning experiences that are designed for discovery—that affirm and tap into each student’s identity and assets—we can navigate the unique challenges this school year will bring and take a step toward equity by helping all young people, especially those from communities that have been marginalized, not just recover but grow and achieve.

By sparking students’ motivation, wonder, engagement, and passion, we can create learning environments that don’t remediate but ignite learning in a new and powerful way.

“One’s ability to learn does not stop outside of the classroom, and adversity in life is not predictive of one’s cognitive capacity. Our plans for moving past the effects of the pandemic should be inspired and energized by this understanding … ​

Students are still able to embrace​ learning when it is purposeful, is joyful, and sparks curiosity.”

American Educator, Summer 2021

So how do you design an asset-based classroom environment?

Building upon what we know from both the best practices of educators and the science of learning and development, we suggest starting by focusing on three core strategies:

  • Stay rooted in relationships ​
  • Elevate student voice: Create classroom culture together
  • Build on what students bring​

Over the next couple of months, we’re going to be diving deeper into the science behind these three practices and providing tools and resources educators can use to redesign their classrooms and schools with an asset-based lens.

Stay Rooted in Relationships

Designing all of our learning settings with relationships at the core could not be more important than it is today. Attuned, responsive, positive developmental relationships are the foundation for all we do in schools. ​A deep focus on building strong relationships, fostering a sense of belonging, and attending to social, emotional, and cognitive development is key to efforts to accelerate academic learning.

Elevate Student Voice: Create Classroom Culture Together

This year, work together with students to co-create a supportive school and classroom environment that is physically, emotionally, and identity safe, while creating a strong sense of authentic community and belonging. We can invite students in as their whole, authentic selves—engaging their identities, agency, cultures, communities, skills, and their experiences, especially during the pandemic, as valued assets.​

Build on What Students Bring​

Rather than asking, “How will we ever remediate lost learning?” let’s ask “How can we build from what students bring and help them along their own unique developmental trajectory?” ​Students have mastered new technologies, taken on new challenges, and practiced managing stress and expressing their feelings as they navigated a tumultuous time. Instead of thinking about this year as a total loss of learning, we can build from these new skills and experiences.​

Ignite Learning for Your Students

This school year will not be easy, but by prioritizing relationships, co-creation, and assets, we can ensure every student feels comfortable and supported and is positioned to grow and achieve.

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