Assess and reflect to create better conditions for learning and development
Relationships and experiences are the primary drivers for who each child becomes. Educators have long known that students’ daily experiences and their mental and physical wellness influence their ability to engage and learn. Yet our current measures, along with how and when we collect them – such as scores on reading and math tests or school climate measures collected once a year for accountability purposes–send a different message about the purpose of measurement and what matters. Not having a full picture of how students are learning and growing can lead to detrimental misconceptions about a student’s potential and choices we make about our practice.
Measuring what matters means embracing the complexity
of how children develop.
If we look to the knowledge of how children learn and develop, it points to four considerations for measurement:
- We need to measure context. When educators evaluate learning conditions and know how students are experiencing them, they are better able to create more supportive contexts for learning.
- We need to measure the holistic development and well-being of young people. Academic competencies are key indicators for schools, but educators and parents care about much more – such as analytic skills, interpersonal skills and how students are feeling and managing their emotions.
- We need to measure frequently. Students are constantly growing and learning, so we need to see in real time how they are responding to their learning conditions and progressing along their unique developmental trajectory.
- We need to look at student data in context. To understand how the system is working, we need to stop looking at data in siloes. We need to connect the dots between student well-being, what skills and competencies students are developing and the conditions they are in in a dynamic way.
When we combine these essential elements, data are guideposts in understanding and learning about each child, their perspectives and their needs. It means moving away from data to label, track, and potentially constrain opportunities for students based on perceived deficits. We want to use data to test new ideas and promote rapid cycle learning to help evolve and fundamentally change and improve the system.
Assess and reflect on your school’s alignment with whole-child design
For educators who are working to embed a whole-child purpose into a system which was not designed for it, a strong first step is to examine and reflect on how their existing structures and practices align with the practices associated with whole-child design. The Whole-Child Inventories (WCI) are a suite of measurement tools designed to prompt that reflection and spark new thinking by signaling specific high-leverage areas that research shows support healthy, whole-child development in educational settings. The WCI tools are designed to support a long-term coordinated approach to intentionally develop and integrate practices that create supportive settings with rich and deep learning experiences and relationships.
Assess and reflect to attune and respond to each of your students
Each student has unique strengths and needs that are dynamic and guide how they engage and learn. Educators informally try to assess how students are doing with quick chats in the hall and through the observation of behavior, however this approach risks looking for problems and many students can be overlooked. The Well-Being Index is a tool designed to help educators collect holistic data – physical, social, psychological, emotional well-being – systematically, directly, quickly, and in real time. This approach increases student voice, empowers students to own their stories, and invites them into the problem-solving process.