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Trust, Belonging, and Curiosity: Insights on Student-Centered Education

In our recent podcast interview, we had the privilege of speaking with Dr. Elizabeth Dean, Head of Learning at The Village School in Virginia. With over fifteen years of experience in various roles in public schools, including as a high school English teacher, department chair, and instructional coach, Dr. Dean is a true changemaker in the field of education. Her fresh perspective, grounded in a student-centered approach to teaching and learning, left us inspired and eager to share her insights. Here are three key takeaways from our conversation with Dr. Dean: 

Trust: Empowering Students in Their Learning Journey

Dr. Dean emphasized the importance of trust in education. She believes that as educators, it is crucial to trust that students know what is best for their own personal learning journey. This trust is rooted in the idea that each student brings valuable skills, knowledge, and perspectives to the table. It's not just a one-way street where educators impart knowledge; it's a collaborative effort where everyone in the room, including educators, can benefit from the diverse experiences and insights that students bring. Trusting students to have agency in their education can lead to more engaged and motivated learners who take ownership of their learning.

Belonging: Fostering Inclusivity and Safety

Another fundamental concept that Dr. Dean highlighted is the importance of belonging. As educational leaders, we should strive to support every student in developing a deep sense of belonging in and ownership of their learning. When students feel like they belong, when their voices are heard and valued, it creates a sense of safety within the learning environment. This safety is essential because it allows students to take risks, to step out of their comfort zones, and to embrace failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. By nurturing a sense of belonging, we can help students become more resilient and open to exploration.

Curiosity: Cultivating Lifelong Learners

Dr. Dean shared a powerful quote during our conversation: "We live in the world our questions create." This quote encapsulates a core goal of education, which is to create curious, lifelong learners. Educators aim to inspire students to actively question, create, and collaborate to solve problems and build a better world. Cultivating curiosity is not just about imparting knowledge but also about encouraging students to ask meaningful questions, to seek answers, and to explore their interests and passions. It's about nurturing a love for learning that extends beyond the classroom and throughout one's life.

Trusting our students, fostering a sense of belonging, and nurturing curiosity are not only keys to academic success but also to creating a generation of individuals who are equipped to make a positive impact on the world. Learn more about these insights and more when you tune in to the full episode!