Whole Child Approach to Teaching


Teachers who want to stay in touch with the latest thinking in education have increasingly turned to a whole child approach. Rather than measuring student success with academic achievement only, the whole child approach to teaching calls for assessing how school culture, curriculums and instructional strategies impact the social-emotional wellness of each child.

The whole child approach to teaching strives to meet all the needs of students. The primary focus is to develop policies and teaching methods that measure student progress not just with short-term academic achievement but also with each child’s long-term physical, social, emotional and cognitive success.

Fresno Pacific University offers a Whole Student Education for Social Emotional Learning course that provides educators the skills they need to meet the needs of all students. The course, which teachers can take for continuing education credit, offers practical tools that help teachers understand how to make each child healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged. 

What Is The Whole Child Approach?

Experts designed the whole child approach to create an educational environment that prepares students for both the current and future life challenges they will face. They learn how to meet the demands of the 21st century, including college, career and citizenship, according to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).

In a paper on the whole child approach to teaching, the ASCD said past shortcomings have indicated the need for a change.

“For too long in too many schools, young people have been provided a learning experience that so undermotivates, undereducates, and underprepares that they are left reaching for remedial preparation for the careers, further education, and civic participation they seek,” the ASCD wrote. “In the worst situations, young people are neither healthy nor safe, neither engaged nor supported, and certainly not challenged.”

Five Main Areas of Whole Child Education

The whole child approach is broken down into five main areas for improvement for every student. The ASCD describes them as follows. 

Healthy. Students enter school healthy and learn what constitutes a healthy lifestyle. School health education addresses the physical, mental, emotional and social aspects of health.

Safe. Teachers and schools create physically and emotionally safe learning environments for students and adults. In such an environment, students feel valued, respected, cared for and motivated to learn.

Engaged. Students feel engaged in learning and connected both to the school and the larger community. This involves teachers using active learning strategies and students getting the chance to contribute and learn through service learning, internships, apprenticeships and volunteer projects.

Supported. Educators offer personalized learning to each student and support from qualified, caring adults. Schools support adult-student relationships that encourage academic and personal growth.

Challenged. Schools and teachers challenge each student academically. Students also receive preparation for college, employment and participation in a global society.

Fresno Pacific University’s Whole Child Education Class

Fresno Pacific designed the Whole Child Education for Social Emotional Learning course to teach professional educators practical ways to implement whole child education strategies. The course also aids educators in understanding how to best assist both students and the larger community.

The course is taught by Connie Enns-Rempel, a former school counselor and currently licensed therapist who offers consulting services to teachers, administrators and parents.

Whole child education is a companion to social emotional learning, another area where Fresno Pacific offers continuing education courses. The university also offers a course based on The Whole-Brain Child book that addresses brain development in children and how it impacts emotions, logic and learning.  

Teachers can also take these courses to earn continuing education credits to meet state requirements for staying certified.


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