December 15, 2021
As humans with an instinct for survival, we’re “wired” to look for problems, concerns and barriers. For decades, education has focused on identifying each student’s weaknesses and sought to strengthen student performance in those areas. But does this mean generations have identified themselves by the things that trip them up? Are your 21st CCLC students at particular risk of this when the very legislation that serves as the basis for your funding includes language like “underperforming?” How can you flip the coin on deficit thinking in your program to help your students not only survive but thrive? You can start by demonstrating your commitment to helping all students discover their gifts, develop their skills, and perform to their full potential. This asset-based approach places students (not their weaknesses) front and center.
Feeling or Focus?
Scientific studies demonstrate that practicing gratitude improves everything from sleep to physical and mental health to relationships, self-esteem and beyond. While gratitude is an individual mindset and practice centered on life’s positives, it’s easy to see how asset-based thinking in education is a systemwide extension of this principle. While your 21st CCLC program may not have “feelings” of gratitude, the studies say it’s the practice of gratitude that yields results. When you think of this shift toward intentionality, you can appreciate that the results are more dependent on focus than feeling. So, how can you focus on student assets in your program to improve results?
Set the Culture
Y4Y’s course on creating a positive learning environment walks programs through the steps needed to set or reshape your culture. Revisit your core values with the implementation checklist that accompanies the course, and commit your program to that cultural shift that emphasizes individual and group strengths.
If your program hasn’t mastered the topic, check out the Y4Y course on capturing student voice and choice. Effective methods and tools for considering both student and family feedback will not only help you discover those student strengths; they’ll also illustrate that strengths are your focus. Download and adapt these Y4Y tools:
- Creating a Reflective Assessment: Middle and High School can help students identify how they learn best.
- Example Registration, a tool in the Including Students With Disabilities course, is designed for intake, but it’s never too late to ask families to reflect on and share their student’s strengths.
- Knowing Families and Cultures helps you ensure that conversations around student strengths are culturally appropriate to families and students.
Strengths as Data Points
As you move toward an asset-based approach, be sure that your data collection reflects this shift:
- The Y4Y Three Types of Data tool serves as a reminder of what goes into intentional program design. Even school-level data could speak to individual strengths like resilience of students in a region that experienced a recent natural disaster.
- Explore the Structuring Successful Homework and Tutoring Sessions Click & Go for suggestions on how to use that data in your staffing efforts, then group students in ways that highlight their respective strengths.
- Get comfortable with qualitative data. This less rigid way of determining needs and results is critical in a shift to asset-based thinking, given that quantitative data is often rooted in a deficit framework.
Just as health and longevity get a boost with a generous dose of gratitude, so, too, will your program when you give students the opportunity to be seen for their strengths. Every single student has strengths. If you can’t see their positives, it doesn’t mean they need to work harder. It means you do. Y4Y is ready to work for you and WITH you on this great mission.