Educating and nurturing the whole person – and widening the focus of education beyond the academic – is not just an important goal in and of itself, but there is also evidence that links holistic education to better learning outcomes. Holistic education is closely linked to education for social and environmental justice as the focus is on developing learners’ compassionate understanding of the world around them, and their critical thinking skills to navigate the interconnections and interrogate complex issues such as social injustice, climate change and climate injustice, and growing inequalities. It’s about teaching learners to think in systems, as global citizens and to reflect on their actions and how they impact the global and local community. Here we see learning as a lifelong endeavour that takes place in formal and informal settings. 

Covid-19 has highlighted the fact that education does not just take place in the classroom – learners also need to be supported by families and communities to build their social, emotional, and ethical knowledge and skills. It also highlighted the need to provide whole-school support to learners – with a focus on well-being, resilience and protection – as well as academic support.  

A key question is thus what do learning spaces/ environments and pedagogies look like that best support the holistic development of learners, and how can we ensure that the learning experiences nurture the whole person alongside achieving development outcomes to support social and environmental justice? 

In this theme, we welcome theoretical or conceptual ‘think-pieces’ as well as empirical research and lessons from practice. We invite papers that focus on holistic education and the links with social and environment justice, with a focus on the following questions: 

  • What are the key debates, frameworks and the key foundational principles of holistic learning that are central to social and environmental justice and what holistic approaches have worked to develop this?
  • What skills and knowledge to focus on (e.g., resilience, social, emotional, empathy/ compassion, ethical, global citizenship, critical thinking…) and why? What do assessment practices look like and how do we measure holistic learning? 
  • What pedagogies? (How to teach this – What does it look like? – What does the positive/ enabling learning environment look like in formal and informal spaces?)? How do we support teachers and facilitators to develop holistic learners considering resources and lived experience are often limited?
  • What is the wraparound support needed (e.g., community support, home support, – protection needs, well-being) and how might learning environments consider culturally diverse epistemologies?
  • What is the role of holistic learning processes in shaping and delivering UNESCO’s new social contract for education? 
  • How can a systems thinking approach support holistic learning?
  • How can holistic learning processes and outcomes facilitate / nurture future thinking perspectives?

Sub-theme convenors:

Jaya Gajparia

Jaya Gajparia, London South Bank University

Anita Reilly

Anita Reilly

Read the interview with the convenors about their aspirations for the theme