Date of Defense


Date of Graduation



Teaching, Learning and Educational Studies

First Advisor

Jill Hermann-Wilmarth

Second Advisor

Allison Jon Hart-Young


Since standardized testing began in the early 2000s, teachers and administrators began to focus on grades and numbers due to pressure placed by these measures. Students are not numbers and therefore are not getting a holistic education that develops their whole being, only their academics. How do we incorporate methods into the classroom to develop the whole child, not just academics, and why is this important?

The most common way in the present day is through socio-emotional learning platforms or curriculums. These may be stand alone lessons or techniques on incorporation into lessons and school culture in general. Normally, whole schools or districts use the same curriculum for socio-emotional learning. As for smaller ways into personal curriculum, core subject lessons can be taught through project or problem-based learning. These two are different, but the same at heart. Both create a central concept or questions for the students to solve, connecting them to their community and the world. The difference is in product, project-based learning follows through on their solution and problem simply finds the solution, therefore making problem-based learning a shorter process. At the center of both ideas is connection. Students will develop their whole being if they feel connected to their different personal communities and it is modeled for them.

There are also daily ways to develop students as whole people such as community circle or a feelings circle. Understanding what the students are going through will allow the teacher to adjust teaching but also create trust between the teacher and the student as well as the student with their class. In turn, teachers should also be modeling this for their students, subtly sharing personal life happenings or being open about their feelings that day. Including students in the creation of classroom rules and assignments also takes the teacher down from their invisible pedestal, creating that trust and wanting to participate in their learning.

Backed by Maslow’s hierarchy, students cannot develop their academic sides, levels 4 and 5, without fulfilling the lower levels, levels of their personal development. Personal development in schools has been pushed to the side due to the rise of testing. To heed greater academic success, teachers must nurture all sides of the student, personal and academic. There will be some backlash from the administration/community, but if it is incorporated into the core curriculum, what is the harm? These 5 minutes of connection could save the class from 10 or more minutes of distraction from outbursts or conduct issues. It may take away from some of the teachers’ personal time, as the connections happen before and after class, but maintaining work-life balance will save this from happening. At the heart of all of these tactics is the importance of connection. If we get to know our students and show we care for them as a person, their whole being will develop in the classroom and remind students that they are not their grade, like the education system has been telling them.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access