Whole Child Education: What Does it Mean and Why Does That Matter?
  • By admin
  • September 24, 2019

By Grace Shelton



EdSurge’s latest article on the importance of teacher perception of whole child teaching practices raises a very important issue. The article puts it simply: teachers’ definitions of what whole child learning is drastically impacts the way they teach it and the way they conduct their classrooms in general. Some teachers may view whole child instruction as a means to helping students thrive within their communities. These teachers may also prioritize discussion-based learning in their classrooms (for example). Other teachers may perceive it as a style of teaching, like personalized learning, that helps students attain better academic outcomes. These teachers may focus more on adapting curricular tools and resources in the classroom.

The article states (and it’s important to remember) that these various definitions of whole child learning aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive or exhaustive. However, they do reflect a different approach to this type of instruction. Not only this, but these differing mindsets also reflect the need for different supports from administration and outside community members. In other words, teachers who view whole child instruction as one thing might require different professional development workshops than teachers who view it another way.

The article concludes that although whole child education was viewed as universally important, there was no universal definition. I argue that this phenomenon extends beyond the teachers surveyed in the piece. With so many perspectives on what it means to instruct the “whole child”, how can we be sure which forms of instruction work best? And how can we ask our educators to alter their instruction based on a form of teaching with no solidified definition? One thing remains clear, teacher voice is important in setting the stage for whole child instruction. And policymakers, as well as researchers, would do well to continue seeking out educator input.


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