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May 1, 2019
Vol. 76
No. 8

Relevant Read / What's the Purpose?

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    EngagementSocial-emotional learning
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      Teaching for Purpose: Preparing Students for Lives of Meaning by Heather Malin (Harvard Education Press, 2018)
      Just 24 percent of high school seniors have identified and feel they are pursuing a purpose for their life. That should matter to educators, explains Heather Malin, director of research at the Stanford University Center on Adolescence. Studies show that students who are pursuing a "beyond-the-self purpose" are more engaged and motivated in school, feel a greater sense of belonging, and take more ownership of their learning.
      Adolescence is a "critical time" to nurture purpose, as students begin to shape their identities and explore their values and belief systems. Malin defines purpose as "a future-directed goal that is personally meaningful and aimed at contributing to something larger than the self." Although purpose is often a lofty goal, like a general intention to "help others" or "protect the environment," adults can help teens ground their purpose in action.
      Without being formulaic, Malin shares insights into the conditions that cultivate purpose in schools and classrooms. Through a purpose-exploration activity at the beginning of the book, educators reflect on their own purpose—to help them learn to model, talk about, and cultivate purpose with their students. In addition to the research and theory on purpose development, Malin profiles the work of six innovative purpose-education programs, including Project Wayfinder and The Future Project.

      EL’s experienced team of writers and editors produces Educational Leadership magazine, an award-winning publication that reaches hundreds of thousands of K-12 educators and leaders each year. Our work directly supports the mission of ASCD: To empower educators to achieve excellence in learning, teaching, and leading so that every child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. 

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