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May 1, 2020
Vol. 77
No. 8

Whole Child Spotlight / On Mind-Body Connectedness

Social-emotional learning
Whole Child Spotlight / On Mind-Body Connectedness thumbnail
Credit: amazingmikael
The mind and body are connected. This core and undeniable principle is the premise of ASCD Whole Child approach to education. It reflects an understanding that students' health and well-being affects their ability to learn, grow, and develop. It is an appreciation that students are, and should be educated as, whole learners.
We know that the social-emotional well-being of the student impacts his or her ability to learn. We know that there is a detrimental relationship between unsafe environments and the effects of trauma and the ability of an individual to focus, synthesize, and learn. But we also know that there are positive things that we can do to enhance, promote, and boost learning. This relationship between the mind and the body, between the brain and learning, is not just a deficit-based equation—it can also be the basis of a strengths-based approach.
We know, for example, that being physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy can improve brain function. And that learning environments where we feel safe, supported, connected, and included also boost learning. It is time for us to put aside what we have done because of convention and tradition—antiquated processes based a on a focus on narrowly defined academic achievement—and to replace them with practices, environments, and whole-learner supports that we know aid learning.
—Sean Slade, ASCD Sr. Director, Global Outreach

Key Whole Child Indicators on Mind-Body Connectedness

This table highlights the five Whole Child tenets and related indicators for schools to assess their progress.

Whole Child Spotlight / On Mind-Body Connectedness - table



Our school sets realistic goals for student and staff health that are built on accurate data and sound science.

Safe3Our physical, emotional, academic, and social school climate is safe, friendly, and student-centered.
Safe4Our students feel valued, respected, and cared for and are motivated to learn.
Safe9Our school climate, curriculum, and instruction reflect both high expectations and an understanding of child and adolescent growth and development.
Engaged5Each student in our school has access to a range of options and choices for a wide array of extracurricular and cocurricular activities that reflect student interests, goals, and learning profiles.
Supported2Our teachers use a range of diagnostic, formative, and summative assessment tasks to monitor student progress, provide timely feedback, and adjust teaching-learning activities to maximize student progress.
Supported3Our school ensures that adult-student relationships support and encourage each student's academic and personal growth.
Supported4Each student has access to school counselors and other structured academic, social, and emotional support systems.
Supported5Our school staff understands and makes curricular, instructional, and school improvement decision based on child and adolescent development and student performance information.
Challenged2Our curriculum and instruction provide opportunities for students to develop critical-thinking and reasoning skills, problem solving competencies, and technology proficiency.

Visit for more information on ASCD's Whole Child indicators.

Sean Slade has more than 25 years of experience in education in a career that has encompassed four continents and five countries. He is currently the director of Whole Child programs at ASCD. He is a regular guest columnist for both the Huffington Post and The Washington Post, commenting on areas of school reform that relate to education, health, well-being, resilience, and school climate.

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