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Young people are more likely to develop into effective learners, productive adults, and engaged citizens when their learning environments afford them certain kinds of experiences. For example, students are more likely to succeed when they experience a sense of belonging in school or experience schoolwork as personally relevant.
How can schools systematically ensure they provide every one of their students with the important developmental experiences they need to succeed and thrive? To answer this question, we offer a conceptual framework that integrates insights from empirical literatures in education, psychology, and developmental science; innovations from early warning indicator methods; and our own experiences as researchers working in partnership with practitioners to build more equitable and developmentally supportive learning environments.
We posit that schools currently pay a great deal of attention to the results of effective learning (e.g., high test scores), but not nearly enough attention to the causes of effective learning (e.g., assignments that are relevant enough to motivate students). We propose that schools could foster learning and development more systematically and more equitably if they started to measure, not just downstream learning outcomes, but also the upstream developmental experiences that make those outcomes more likely to unfold.