A Holistic and Integrated Approach: A Conversation with Scott Hartl


Scott Hartl, President & CEO of EL Education, an organization focused on creating classrooms where teachers can fulfill their highest aspirations, highlights how learning occurs in many platforms.

Q: The lessons from the science of learning and development are inherently hopeful. What are the strengths that young people and their communities are bringing to this crisis?

We’re so worried about the Coronavirus that we have started to talk about a lost generation. I know that kids feel affronted by things like that. In this crisis, I see an endlessly surprising amount of resilience in young people. It is amazing to me how much resilience kids can build when they feel agency to do something positive or when they are being asked to help. Kids in challenging situations can rise and can take positive action. It’s hard to create situations where kids can do something beyond themselves. But when you do, kids are amazing.

Q: What’s one piece of concrete advice drawing from the science of learning and development that you would elevate for every educator or other adult supporting young people?

I would focus on this idea of integration. If learning is fractured, if it’s not connected, if it’s not authentically holistic and integrated, it is not likely to succeed. In other words, if all this attention to belonging and to relationships and to efficacy is then combined with work that is not compelling, then it is not intrinsically worthwhile. The quality of the academic endeavor matters.

I believe this is a moment when we need to understand the power of the SoLD message in all the components delivered in an integrated fashion where relationships are built, while doing work that matters and where belonging is built through common work with a purpose that builds identity across differences. Those are the conditions under which belonging and a mindset of an academic mindset grow. That can happen in the classroom, or the chess club or the basketball team.

Q: What is the education issue that is around the corner that you hope people start addressing now? How would knowledge from the science of learning and development help us advance equity as we take it on?

It’s hard enough to help teachers create the environments in their classroom and at a school level and a district level. But now we must support our partners across physical classrooms and virtual classrooms. And we know so much less about the distance-based pedagogy that can effectively build and hold all the elements that I described before. So we need to rediscover. We need to disassemble.

The pedagogical frame and the instructional frame reassemble it in a different way that meets the needs of young kids in a distant environment. So that’s just hard. And not only is it hard, but we’re all trying to do it yesterday, because our partners need it now.

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