I would emphasize humanistic theories and principles if I were responsible for redesigning the educational environment. The Humanistic approach studies the whole person, and the uniqueness of each individual. It assumes people are basically good and have an innate need to make themselves and the world better. The humanistic approach emphasizes the personal worth of the individual, human values, and the creative, active nature of human beings. The approach is optimistic and focuses on the capacity to overcome hardship, pain, and despair. Abraham Maslow regarded personal growth and fulfillment in life as a basic human motive. This means that each person, in different ways, seeks to grow psychologically and continuously enhance themselves. This has been captured by the term self-actualization, which is about psychological growth, fulfillment, and satisfaction in life. One approach to promoting children's well-being is based on recent innovations in developmental neuroscience and the importance of executive function for resilience and developmental success (Shonkoff, Boyce, & McEwen, 2009).
EF skills strengthen significantly throughout childhood and adolescence and can be influenced by environmental enrichment (Best & Miller, 2010; M. C. Davidson, Amso, Anderson, & Diamond, 2006). One proposed way to support the development of EFs and self-regulation during childhood is through practicing mindfulness (Zelazo & Lyons, 2012). Defined as a mental state or trait, as opposed to a set of practices (Roeser, in press), mindfulness refers to an ability to focus on thoughts, feelings, or perceptions that arise moment to moment … (i.e., “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally,” Additional principles to help students learn more effectively, as published by The Coalition for Psychology in Schools and Education (CPSE), include:
- Growth mindset – Research shows that learners who hold the growth mindset that intelligence is malleable, and success is related to effort level are more likely to remain focused on goals and persist despite setbacks.
- Prior knowledge – Research shows that prior knowledge influences both conceptual growth and conceptual change in students. With conceptual growth, students add to their existing knowledge, and with conceptual change, students correct misconceptions or errors in existing knowledge. Prior knowledge can be used to help students incorporate background knowledge and draw connections between units during the course.
- Limits of stage theories – Research indicates that cognitive development and learning are not limited by general stages of development.
- Facilitating context – Student growth and deeper learning are developed when instructors help students transfer learning from one context to another. Students will also be better able to generalize learning to new contexts if instructors invest time in focusing on deeper learning. One method of developing this skill is to have students use their understanding of a particular unit to generate potential solutions to real-world problems.
- Practice – Empirically based strategies will help students more effectively encode learned materials into long-term memory.
- Feedback – Clear, explanatory and timely feedback to students is important for learning.
- Self-regulation – Self-regulation skills, including attention, organization, self-control, planning and memory strategies, improve learning and engagement and can be taught through direct instruction, modeling and classroom organization. Teachers can model organizational methods and assist students by highlighting learning targets at the start and conclusion of lessons, using classroom calendars, highlighting difficult concepts that will require more practice, breaking large projects into manageable components, using well-designed rubrics and allowing sufficient processing time through questioning, summarizing and practice.
- Creativity – Creativity is considered a critical skill for the technology-driven world of the 21st century and because it is not a stable trait, it can be taught, nurtured and increased.
- Motivation – Students tend to enjoy learning and to do better when they are more intrinsically rather than extrinsically motivated to achieve.
- Goals – Students persist in the face of challenging tasks and process information more deeply when they adopt mastery goals rather than performance goals.
- Teacher expectations – Teachers’ expectations about their students affect students’ opportunities to learn, their motivation and their learning outcomes.
- Goal setting – This principle explains how students can use short-term (proximal), specific and moderately challenging goals to increase self-efficacy and build toward larger goals. Students should maintain a record of progress toward their goals which is monitored by both the student and the instructor. After students experience success with moderately challenging proximal goals, they will be more likely to become intermediate risk takers, which is one of the most significant attributes present in achievement-oriented individuals. As a result, they will be capable of achieving larger distal goals.
- Social contexts – Learning is situated within multiple social contexts; incorporate opportunities for students to engage with the larger community.
- Interpersonal relationships – Interpersonal relationships and communication are critical to both the teaching-learning process and the social development of students.
- Well-being – Emotional well-being influences educational performance, learning, and development. Various components of emotional well-being can be included such as self-concept and self-esteem (social psychology), self-efficacy and locus of control (motivation and personality) and happiness and coping skills (emotion and stress).
- Conduct – Expectations for conduct and social interaction are learned and can be taught using proven principles of behavior and effective instruction.
- Expectations and support -Effective management is based on (a) setting and communicating high expectations, (b) consistently nurturing positive relationships, and (c) providing a high level of student support. This principle highlights practical techniques to create a culture of high academic achievement and positive classroom behavior at both the classroom and school levels. The Top 20 document references information about restorative practices and social and emotional learning that includes a variety of specific and practical strategies for building teacher-student relationships.