Whole Child Symposium

Imagine Today’s Children at 25

"What do we want our children to be like? Think of that child, that teenager, that young adult and describe them. What words do we use? ... What do our children want to be like when they are 25? How would they describe themselves? Are they content with an education system which at times seems more designed to sort, test, and label students than develop, educate, or prepare them?"

—"In Support of the Whole Child," The Huffington Post, 2012

We live in a global economy that requires our students to be prepared to think both critically and creatively, evaluate massive amounts of information, solve complex problems, and communicate well. A strong foundation in reading, writing, math, and other core subjects is still as important as ever, yet by itself is insufficient for lifelong success. For too long, we have committed to time structures, coursework, instructional methods, and assessments designed more than a century ago. Our current definition of student success is too narrow. It is time to put students first, align resources to students’ multiple needs, and advocate for a more balanced approach.

If the child were truly at the center of each educational decision, what would that look like? Would we

  • Create learning conditions that enable all children to develop their fullest potential?
  • Enable children to reconnect to their communities and their own diverse learning resources?
  • Deeply engage each child in learning?
  • Integrate all the ways children come to know the natural world, themselves, and one another, so that they can authentically take their place in creating a better future for all?

In the debate on what the future of education could and should be, there are a number of advocates for personalizing learning and structuring education to respond to the changing world around us. Ensuring personalized learning for all students requires a shift in thinking about long-standing education practices, systems, and policies, as well as significant changes in the tools and resources. To address students' abilities, interests, styles, and performance, schools need to rethink curricula, instruction, and technology tools to support giving learners choices and schools flexibility.

IBM took a five-years-out view and predicts that "In five years, classrooms will learn about you, and personalize coursework accordingly. It's the end of the era of one-size-fits-all education, and the beginning of personalized learning."


Knowledgeworks takes it five years further and previews five disruptions that will reshape learning over the next decade, saying that "[w]e cannot afford to hang on to our current education structures and approaches simply because they've become the norm. ... In short, we expect to have at our disposal the knowledge and tools that could enable all children to have the learning experiences and supports that they need in order to succeed in college, career, and life."


Over the last month, we've been asking questions and listening to what leaders, educators, and you think about what the purpose of education should be and how we will be able to get there. Starting with the Whole Child Symposium Town Hall discussion on March 16 where panelists stressed the need to be advocates and activists, create conditions for student voice, and include the social-emotional component in education, we then took the conversation to Twitter:

What education policies do we need for the future?

What do you think we need from education?

What do we need from education itself to provide for the whole child?

What decisions are we making today that will affect education outcomes tomorrow?

Each child, in each school, in each of our communities deserves to be healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. That's what a whole child approach to learning, teaching, and community engagement really is.

Follow the conversation here on the blog, share your thoughts in the comments and by e-mail, and pose your questions on Twitter using the hashtag #WCSymposium2014.

Whole Child Symposium Town Hall

Learn more at www.ascd.org/wcsymposium.

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