How Learning Happens: Lessons Learned from Five Communities
How do young people learn?
It’s a simple question with profound implications.
A growing practice and research base confirms what educators, families, and young people have intuitively understood: children learn best when they are treated as whole people and when all aspects of their growth and development are prioritized.
Throughout 2020, America’s Promise Alliance worked with five communities across the country that wanted to extend and deepen their efforts to support young people’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. Each community planned cross-sector convenings to inspire action that would result in the approaches to learning that prioritize young people’s growth and development. Just as their work was getting underway, the communities’ efforts were unexpectedly and indelibly shaped by the upheaval of the past year—including the global pandemic and national reckoning with racism.
The five communities in the How Learning Happens Community Convening Cohort were:
Nashville After Zone Alliance, Nashville, TN
Parents for Public Schools – San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy and Transforming Education, Boston, MA
Spartanburg Academic Movement, Spartanburg, SC
The Whole Child Connection at the Children’s Institute, Rochester, NY
As a group, the community organizations’ efforts were fueled by a reawakened appreciation for holistic and coordinated approaches to learning and development. The organizations and their communities also became more squarely focused on the themes of anti-racism and belonging and more intentionally centered on the perspectives of young people.
The brief shares three major lessons learned across the communities:
Lesson 1. Equity must be an explicit desired outcome of all social, emotional, and cognitive programming
Lesson 2. Shifting Adult Practice Requires Time and Space for Adult Self-Care
Lesson 3. Youth Voice is a Crucial Influence in Transforming Learning Environments
This brief also explores unique strategies each community took to support young people over the last year and offers insights into cross-sector partnerships allowed these convenings to have a longer impact. While the efforts of these five organizations reflect the specific contexts of their communities and the youth and adults who live in them, the strategies and lessons learned can inform efforts in all places committed to holistic, coordinated, and community-driven approaches to learning and development.
The 5 Promises
The 5 Promises represent conditions children need to achieve adult success. The collective work of the Alliance involves keeping these promises to America’s youth. This article relates to the promises highlighted below: