Priorities: Educating the Whole Person
Bringing Theory to Practice has supported innovative work on behalf of multiple educational goals. We believe that great, transformative learning needs to nurture students both outwardly –– preparing them for meaningful work, democratic public life and social action –– and inwardly –– fostering their emotional well-being, critical thinking, empathy, and capacity for reflection. Yet beneath these multiple goals, and braiding them together, is the imperative to treat students holistically, to offer them experiences, structures, and relationships that enable them to integrate themselves and their lives. Too often academic institutions and educators undermine this mission, fragmenting the student experience according to our own organizational and disciplinary silos. BT2P has advanced many efforts to make curricula, institutions, and the student experience more holistic, supporting work that bridges the divides among disciplines, between academics and student life, between campus and community, and across the student’s intellectual, emotional, and civic development.
Here are several, BT2P-supported projects that model innovative approaches to educating the whole person.
- The School of the Art Institute of Chicago launched a Residential College that integrated first-year studio with liberal learning and a programmatic focus on art students’ mental health.
- St. Lawrence University redesigned its First-Year Program to link the teaching of writing, research, and critical thinking skills in community-based seminars, team-taught by faculty advisors in residential living-learning communities.
- Bay Path University — whose undergraduate programs serve traditional and adult women students — created the Women as Empowered Learners and Leaders (WELL) Program. WELL recast the core curriculum to integrate active learning, reflection, personal well-being, and civic engagement with lifelong learning and leadership development.
- Wagner College used a BT2P demonstration grant to assess the interconnections among experiential learning, civic engagement, and student well-being in the college’s core curriculum.
Discussions of holistic education have also been a significant theme of BT2P reports and publications:
- Donald W. Harward, “Engaged Learning and the Core Purposes of Liberal Education” (Liberal Education, 2007)
- Lee Knefelkamp and Jennifer O’Brien, “The Whole Student: Finding Balance at the Intersections of Identity and Belonging” (Diversity and Democracy, 2018)
- Theodore E. Long, “Evoking Wholeness: To Renew the Ideal of the Educated Person” (Transforming Undergraduate Education: Theory That Compels and Practices That Succeed)
- “The Well-being and Flourishing of Students” (2014 report)