To some of us, the fact that a debate still rages in corners of the education world about whether cognitive development or social-emotional, physical and other needs should take precedence in schools is downright silly.
It couldn’t be more obvious that this tired, unproductive debate could be settled with two simple words: both and.
As our model demonstrates, helping develop a child’s cognition, character, sense of health and well-being, and connection to community are all equally important parts of a whole education, that cannot and should not be treated as separate elements.
Our model is based on peer-reviewed academic research, but it’s always gratifying and validating to see new studies reinforce what we so deeply believe, even when it seems so patently obvious to so many people. As an April, 2018 Education Week article put it:
“Teachers, like parents, have always understood that children’s learning and growth do not occur in a vacuum, but instead at the messy intersection of academic, social, and emotional development. And they know that students’ learning is helped (or hindered) by the quality of students’ relationships and the contexts in which they live and learn. Working to weave those threads, skilled teachers often have yearned for schools—and policy approaches—that understand this complex reality.”
The EdWeek highlights two new studies, one focused on the science of learning, another on child development, that make a powerful case for the Compositive approach to education.
The studies, EdWeek says, bring “together research on learning and development, which we oddly and unfortunately often separate in education, contrary to the urging of psychologists and child development specialists.”
The findings can be boiled down to four broad categories:
- Malleability: Developing brains are influenced more by environment and relationships than by genetics.
- Context: Experiences and relationships (especially family) actually help shape the physiological structure of the brain. Challenge and adversity are healthy; toxic amounts of stress can damage connections between the bran’s two hemispheres.
- Continuum: Rapid brain development doesn’t just occur in young children. It continues through adolescence and early adulthood. Yet our education systems are structured to support this ongoing brain development.
- Integration: Different parts of the brain develop complex interconnections over time, but those connections can be influenced by positive and negative experiences. However, trusting human relationships buffer the brain against the effects of negative experiences. “Children who have faced adversity, and whose brains lag in development, can recover—if schools recognize these challenges and take timely action.”