High Impact Practices Mental Health Purpose of Teaching

Educating the Whole Student

The lead image comes from Donald Harward’s introduction to an excellent volume Well-Being and Higher Education. I’ve been thinking a great deal about Harward’s essay–and the entire volume–because I’ve been thinking a lot about what it would mean for a liberal arts college to really make good on the promise to educate the whole student inside and outside the classroom.

Since last semester, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with outstanding students in Commons College. The mission of Commons is to create a space where conversations that happen inside the classroom extend into residential spaces. I get to teach a course in their living space, and it is so gratifying to spend time with students where they live.

As I think about the pandemic and the future of liberal education, I think we are going to want to find more ways to blend the curricular and co-curricular aspects of a student’s experience, and one way to do this, is to consider what unique learning goals span the student’s whole college experience.

At the first meeting of the journal article club Donna Alvah and I are organizing, we discussed Randy Bass’s chapter “Can We Liberate Liberal Education.” What I appreciated about this chapter–among other things–was the way that Bass argued that residential liberal arts colleges are uniquely positioned to instill dispositions, especially dispositions like “growth mindsets, self-efficacy, self-regulated learning, metacognitive abilities, and traits such as grit, empathy, resilience, and humility.”

Bass suggests that these dispositions are not only AI-proof (something on many of our minds as we consider tools like ChatGPT) and argues that liberal arts colleges must be intentional about helping students develop these dispositions through all aspects of their campus life.

I am excited about ongoing conversations about creating new living-learning communities for our students, and conversations about how we can infuse purpose and the pursuit of meaning across a student’s SLU experience. I invite anyone interested in these topics to reach out and encourage us to consider ways we can educate the whole student for a life of deep engagement and learning.