Opinion Blog

Ask a Psychologist

Helping Students Thrive Now

Angela Duckworth and other behavioral-science experts offer advice to teachers based on scientific research. To submit questions, use this form or #helpstudentsthrive. Read more from this blog.

Student Well-Being Opinion

What Research Says About Supporting the Whole Child

By Angela Duckworth — December 16, 2020 2 min read
How do I educate the whole child?

This column will be on break through the end of December. Happy holidays, and see you in January!

How can we as educators think holistically about educating the whole child?

As 2020 draws to a close, caring for the whole child is more important than ever. Here’s what I wrote about this topic recently for Character Lab as a Tip of the Week:

What do we hope for when we send children to school?

This is the question Martin Luther King, Jr. posed in an essay entitled “The Purpose of Education,” published in the Morehouse student newspaper around the time of his 18th birthday.

King’s answer: “Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”

But what, then, is character?

This is the question child psychologist Diana Baumrind addressed, toward the end of an illustrious career, in an essay entitled “Reflections on Character and Competence.”

Character, Baumrind writes, “provides the structure of internal law that governs inner thoughts and volitions subject to the agent’s control under the jurisdiction of conscience.”

Baumrind then offers examples of character strengths recognized by diverse traditions across history and different cultures. Character is personal integrity, honesty, and social responsibility. But character is also persistence in the face of obstacles, self-discipline, and work ethic. The list of what constitutes admirable character goes on and on. In short, character is not one thing, but many.

In King’s prescient words: “The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.” As Baumrind put it: “It takes virtuous character to will the good, and competence to do good well.”

New research by economist Kirabo Jackson and colleagues shows that some schools are especially good at raising standardized achievement test scores. Some excel at improving interpersonal skills, like helping other people. Some improve intrapersonal skills, like setting aside time to study.

Jackson also found that the schools that do a wonderful job on the test-score front don’t always excel at developing aspects of character—and vice versa. But many schools do both.

Don’t oversimplify education. A great classroom is one in which young people thrive in every sense of the word. Schools play an essential role in helping young people develop socially, emotionally, physically, and academically.

Do ask the young people in your life what they think about the purpose of education. Share a story, perhaps, of a lesson you learned as a young person that you can’t put on your resume but you hope will be remembered in your eulogy. As with so many endeavors in life, Why? is a very good place to start.

Angela Duckworth, the founder and CEO of the education nonprofit Character Lab, is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. You can follow Character Lab on Twitter @TheCharacterLab.

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Ask a Psychologist: Helping Students Thrive Now are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Engaging Young Students to Accelerate Math Learning
Join learning scientists and inspiring district leaders, for a timely panel discussion addressing a school district’s approach to doubling and tripling Math gains during Covid. What started as a goal to address learning gaps in
Content provided by Age of Learning & Digital Promise, Harlingen CISD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How to Power Your Curriculum With Digital Books
Register for this can’t miss session looking at best practices for utilizing digital books to support their curriculum.
Content provided by OverDrive

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being The Pandemic Brought Universal Free School Meals. Will They Stay?
Relaxed rules during the COVID-19 pandemic have allowed schools to serve universal free meals. Some in Congress want to make that permanent.
8 min read
Kejuan Turner, 8, eats a burger from a free bagged lunch provided by the Jefferson County School District on the back of his mother's truck with his brother, Kendrell, 9, outside their home in Fayette, Miss.
Kejuan Turner, 8, eats a burger from a free bagged lunch provided by the Jefferson County school district on the back of his mother's truck with his brother, Kendrell, 9, outside their home in Fayette, Miss., in March.
Leah Willingham/AP
Student Well-Being What the Research Says Getting Face Time With Students May Be More Important Than You Think
There's a good reason for teachers and students to keep their cameras on in class, a new neuroscience study suggests.
3 min read
Mashea Ashton, principal and founder of Digital Pioneers Academy, drops in to different Zoom classes to see how students and teachers are doing.
Mashea Ashton, the principal and founder of Digital Pioneers Academy, drops in on a Zoom class. New research shows ways teachers can build better bonds with students online.
Jaclyn Borowski/Education Week
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Whitepaper
SEL as a Plan to Slow the Impact of Learning Loss
In this discussion, we will discuss the impacts of learning loss during the pandemic, the inequities that have emerged during this time, ...
Content provided by Center for Responsive Schools
Student Well-Being Video The Awkward, Exciting, and Uncertain Transitions to Middle School, High School, and College
Students in 5th, 8th, and 12th grades anticipate their transition from pandemic schooling to a new level of education in the fall.
Jaclyn Borowski , Eric Harkleroad & Brooke Saias
1 min read