What is a whole child in the 21st century? How do we develop the whole child? Why is it important to support the development of the whole child? The ASCD Whole Child (2012) tackles the whole child’s learning and success as a prerequisite to a better future. ASCD Whole Child (2012) notes,
“A child who enters school healthy and feels safe is ready to learn. A student who feels connected to school is more likely to stay in school. All students who have access to challenging and engaging academic programs are better prepared for further education, work, and civic life. hese components must work together, not in isolation. That is the goal of whole child education.”
This message indicates the balance of support that a child needs for healthy development. From pre-birth, up to the early years, a child’s brain development is dependent on the nutrition, experiences and physical environment. Jack Shonkoff (n.d), director of the Developing Child – Harvard University mentions that “what happens in early life, that’s the foundation for everything that follows.” Therefore, even before a child enters school, she or he has predispositions from early experiences that have already started to shape the brain architecture.
A child’s development does not rest solely on the hands of the parents. The parents who are a part of a larger community may have needs that must be supported as well. Do they have jobs that equip them to take care of families? Work that entitles the parents to have some time off to nurture the newborn child, especially the mother who ideally must breastfeed? How are communities supporting healthy development among young children? Is there support for the production of healthy quality food for mass consumption? Are there provisions for nutritious food in public schools? Are school and community policies supporting sound and healthy development that can impact success at school and later in life?
The ideals of healthy development may be far-fetched. Thus, this will warrant individual support for the needs of every child from the different sectors of the soceity. To identify the needs of the children is by looking at the big picture of assessments. Herman (2010) notes the pitfalls of many assessments especially when they fail to serve the purpose. Herman (2010) proposes a coherent system of measures that is composed of horizontal, vertical and developmental measures of learning that encompass the varying needs of every child. Horizontal coherence can narrow down the gap between what the child knows and what she or he needs to know as teachers identify the goals and engage the child in learning to achieve these goals. Developmental coherence is building of assessments from grade level to college and work preparation. Through feedback from assessments, teachers can refine their approaches to learning to help the children build on skills set in benchmark assessments. Vertical assessments allow for visibility of how children are doing and can direct educators and policy-makers to make the necessary improvements in the classrooms, schools and districts.
Different assessments cater for the different needs of learners. As we look at identifying these needs, we have to dig deeper than remediating the current manifestation of learning needs as behavior can also be an overlapping factor. Trying to improve teaching to help children perfom better in standardized tests do not guarantee future success. Looking at the big picture can help in rethinking the assessment approaches to help every individual student. We do not assess to label and define the person the child is, but label and act upon his or her needs to function at a personal and eventually social level. Scrutinizing the past, present and future predicament of a child will foster appropriate assessments to address needs appropriately, making an impact not only in the current situation, but also the healthy develoment of a whole child – the next driver of the forthcoming generation.
ASCD (2014). Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child. ASCD-CDC Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/siteASCD/publications/wholechild/wscc-a-collaborative-approach.pdf
Center on the Developing Child–Harvard University. (n.d.). InBrief: The foundations of lifelong health.[Video file]. Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/index.php/resources/multimedia/videos/inbrief_series/inbrief_the_foundations_of_lifelong_health/
Herman, J. L. (2010). Coherence: Key to Next Generation Assessment Success (AACC Report). Los Angeles, CA: University of California Retrieved from http://www.cse.ucla.edu/products/policy/coherence_v6.pdf