Belonging as Beginning

Submitted By:
Michael Berglund, Holland Hall School, Tulsa, OK

Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why by Paul Tough
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 24, 2016

In Helping Children Succeed, his sequel to How Children Succeed, Paul Tough asks: "What is it about growing up in poverty that leads to so many troubling outcomes?" Initially, Tough looks at how negative experiences created by "traditional" education and economic disadvantage damage students' ability to succeed. Tough spends the rest of the book using research to highlight the ways in which classroom environment acts as a key indicator of student success and teacher competency. After synthesizing mountains of relevant research on the benefits of non-cognitive ability for students, Tough distills what needs to happen in the classroom into two principles that lead to student success: belonging and work. Belonging, he believes, determines whether or not a student feels valued by the different constituencies in the school community; work involves a student's ability to meet and overcome academic challenges. Tough provides convincing arguments for schools to adapt "deeper learning" practices: inquiry-based instruction, project-based learning, and performance-based assessments. He also suggests that schools adapt pedagogy that encourages peer critique and the kind of revision opportunities that allow for creative solutions to problems. In the end, Tough's book is a sound description of how to apply current research to existing classroom practice, and it will be particularly relevant to teachers working with struggling students.

Teaching Practice
Social-Emotional Learning