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What if We Put Care at the Center of Learning?

January 26, 2017

As we look at what readiness might look like in the future social-emotional development has seemed increasingly foundational.Many education conversations focus on outcomes, ranging from what standardized tests can and should measure to what skills students will need in a rapidly changing world of work. As we have been taking a closer look at what readiness might look like in the future and what educational strategies might help learners succeed, social-emotional development has seemed increasingly foundational.

I was especially excited, then, to learn about Ontario’s approach to well-being at a recent #ICSEI2017 conference session, “Multiple Identities, Evolving Well-Beings.” The province’s well-being strategy takes a four-pronged approach, as illustrated below.

Ontario’s approach to well-being takes a four-pronged approach.
Copyright Information: © Queen’s Printer for Ontario. Source:

Promoting well-being sits alongside achieving excellence, ensuring equity, and enhancing public confidence to frame Ontario’s vision for renewing education.

In sharing their research on the implementation of the province’s well-being strategy, Boston College researchers Cris Bacon, Mark D’Angelo, and Shanée Wangia highlighted how educational change is ultimately about humanity. Not about outcomes in isolation, but about caring for people, including the students in and disengaged from school, the adults working with them, families, and communities.

I wonder what learning might look like if we put care at the center. Might that shift in focus lead us to:

  • Broaden our understanding of the purposes of education
  • Prioritize helping young people understand themselves over preparing for specific career pathways
  • Change how we organize curricula and classrooms
  • Shift how we design and support educator roles
  • Use new tools such as wearables, sensors, and augmented and virtual reality to create more responsive learning environments
  • Accelerate the adoption of promising practices such as replacing detention with meditation, informing educators about responding to students’ trauma, or asking students to share their emotional states as they engage in classrooms?

As more and more learners struggle with stress and anxiety, well-being could be a foundational outcome that enables academic performance and provides the foundation for future readiness.

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