As school safety and student achievement continue to dominate the news, policymakers and practitioners are looking for research-based strategies to address these issues.
On Dec. 3, 2013, policymakers and representatives from national education organizations gathered on Capitol Hill for a presentation by AIR researchers on how to create safe and supportive learning environments for children inside and outside of the classroom.
Kimberly Kendziora, a principal researcher with AIR, introduced the essential conditions for learning for student success–environments that are safe, supportive, challenging, and help students learn to cope. “Social-emotional learning starts with the desired end in mind: Factors students need to achieve success,” Kendziora said.
Senior researcher Ann-Marie Faria discussed the research behind social and emotional skill- building in early education, noting that educators can use a “positive prevention approach” toward school climate and discipline.
AIR researcher Allison Dymnicki shifted the conversation to promoting essential conditions for learning outside the classroom. Dymnicki detailed what characteristics to look for in an afterschool program and noted that stakeholders must also consider competing demands and the readiness and motivation to start such supports.
First-grade teacher Jillian Ahrens from Cleveland Metropolitan School District explained how her school, Memorial School, has implemented conditions for learning and how teachers have embraced it. “Intuitively teachers get this,” she said. But, she added, they also assume their school’s learning environment is already conducive to learning. The tricky part is to shift the mindset that conditions for learning are automatically in place. Rather, teachers and schools must consistently focus on implementing and improving them.