The Whole Child Newsletter  February 29, 2012


To many students, school is just a place they go. How do we create engaging learning experiences that make school more personal for them? Students need to be motivated in their learning before they can apply higher-order, creative-thinking skills and, ultimately, be prepared for their future college, career, and citizenship success.

The most recent results from the High School Survey of Student Engagement show that only two percent of students surveyed said they'd never been bored in school. Students who have thought about dropping out continue to cite a lack of engagement with the school as a reason: 50 percent said they considered dropping out because they didn't like the school (51 percent cited this in the 2008 survey); 39 percent said they considered it because they didn't like the teachers (40 percent in 2008); 42 percent said they thought of dropping out because they didn't see the value in the work they were asked to do (45 percent in 2008). Just 41 percent of the students said that they went to school because of what they learn in classes.

We can—and must—do better to engage and re-engage students as learners and in learning. Students are engaged and productive when they havecontrol, choice, challenge, complexity, and caring teachers. To create environments where students can thrive and succeed, we should use active and effective learning strategies such as cooperative learning and project-based learning; create opportunities for students to contribute to and learn within the community at large through service learning and internships; and develop inquiry-based, experiential learning tasks and activities to help all students deepen their understanding of what they are learning and why they are learning it.

Throughout February, we took a look at engaging instructional strategies that embrace both high standards and accountability for students' learning. Listen to this month's Whole Child Podcast, featuring Shelley Billig, a researcher who has conducted national, state, and regional studies on service learning; Jason Flom, a 5th grade teacher at Cornerstone Learning Community in Tallahassee, Fla.; and Dorvionne Lindsay, a senior at Quest Early College High School in Humble, Tex., winner of the 2011 Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award. Read the Whole Child Blog to hear from guest bloggers, and dive deeper into the latest research, reports, and tools on the engaging learning strategies topic page.


How Project-Based Learning Educates the Whole Child

Project-based learning is built on the same foundation as whole child education. Inquiry into adolescent mental health, youth development, and developmental psychology has revealed the three core conditions required for young people to develop a "drive and thrive" outlook that leads to successful adulthood. Psychologist and educator Thom Markham describes the joy and excitement learning can offer when projects have the right mix of challenge, engagement, and personalized support.

The Academic Service-Learning Answer to Student Engagement

Service learning engages students in powerful ways, helping them to increase their academic engagement and performance, civic engagement, and social-emotional learning. Teri Dary, cochair of whole child partner the National Coalition for Academic Service-Learning and service learning consultant at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, believes that teachers who use service learning in the classroom as a type of positive teaching strategy achieve better results in a variety of academic and behavioral categories than those who don't.

Keeping It Real: Giving Students Opportunities to Extend and Apply Their Knowledge with Authentic Tasks

Teachers now have a context for using the "notable nine" categories of teaching strategies and can apply them purposefully as they assess, teach, and mentor their students. Elizabeth Ross Hubbell, a principal consultant at McREL and coauthor of the second edition of Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement,shares one of her own teaching stories that illustrates the power of using the strategies framework to engage students in learning.


For Each to Excel: Make Standards Engaging

In its February 2012 issue, ASCD's Educational Leadership magazine looks at how educators create classrooms that key into student similarities, honor their differences, and build strong learning foundations from both. In "Make Standards Engaging," McREL's Bryan Goodwin discusses how students develop their talents over the long haul when they are both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated.

School Connectedness: Strategies for Increasing Protective Factors Among Youth

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shares six strategiesthat teachers, administrators, other school staff, and parents can implement to increase the extent to which students feel connected to school, including the use of effective classroom management and teaching methods to foster a positive learning environment.

Get Into It: Educate, Motivate, and Activate

Special Olympics offers education and engagement tools for teachers and students in its Get Into It program. The online resources include age-appropriate classroom lessons and service learning community activities.

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