Changemaker Dictionary: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Holistic Education

Changemaker Dictionary: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Holistic Education

by Kristi Kraychy, Head of School

Assessment: The process of evaluating a student’s understanding, skills, and performance in various subjects. In a holistic setting, this often includes the student’s self-assessment, observational notes, portfolios and teacher feedback focused on opportunities to improve, emphasizing growth over grades.

Changemaker/Changemaking: A Changemaker is an individual who actively initiates positive transformations in their community and beyond, driven by a deep understanding of various perspectives. Changemaking is characterized by innovative problem-solving, empathy, and effective leadership. It distinguishes itself from activism by prioritizing an approach that embraces diverse viewpoints to develop solutions, rather than concentrating solely on advocating or raising awareness about a particular issue.

Collaboration: Collaboration is a collective effort to reach a shared objective. In education, this typically takes the form of group discussions and cooperative tasks, where the final creation is augmented by the unique inputs of each member, fostering an environment where creative ideas are valued over conformity. At the heart of collaboration is the crucial ability to consider and respect different perspectives and communicate one’s own ideas effectively, without resorting to defensiveness. Mastering this delicate balance of communication and understanding is a complex yet essential skill set.

Communication: The process of sharing information, ideas, and feelings. Effective communication in schools includes both verbal and non-verbal methods, encouraging open and respectful dialogues. We teach students the differences between aggressive, assertive and passive forms of communication in addition to the importance of having strong communication skills not just in the work they do but for building positive relationships in and out of school. 

Critical Thinking: The ability to think about information and ideas in a thoughtful way that involves questioning assumptions, evaluating evidence, and considering different viewpoints.

Curriculum: The Alberta curriculum is followed by all accredited schools and serves as a roadmap of learning objectives, topics and content for each subject in each grade as set by Alberta Education and the Government of Alberta. Individual schools and teachers in Alberta have a certain degree of freedom in how they present this curriculum to their students. Alternative, charter, and private schools have the added flexibility to weave in their own unique curricula, educational philosophies and teaching practices, as long as they ensure they still meet the general educational standards and goals set forth by the government.

Compassion vs Sympathy vs Kindness vs Empathy:

  • Sympathy: Feelings of pity for someone else’s misfortune.
  • Kindness: The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.
  • Compassion: Deep awareness of the suffering of another, coupled with the wish to relieve it.
  • Empathy: The desire to understand other people’s emotions, coupled with the effort to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.

Differentiation: Differentiation is the educational practice of adapting teaching and learning to address the diverse requirements of individual students as much as possible within a group setting. It involves modifying lesson plans to cater to a range of skill levels and learning styles, providing a selection of assignment options to accommodate student preferences, and employing a variety of assessment methods that enable students to showcase their learning and progress through multiple avenues. The opposite of standardization, this approach aims to create an inclusive learning environment where every student has the opportunity to succeed and thrive academically.

Engagement: Engagement in education refers to the degree of interest, curiosity, and enthusiasm that students exhibit as they are learning. Such engagement goes beyond mere compliance and participation; it is a deeper, intrinsic drive that often leads to higher achievement and a more profound understanding of the material. Engaged students are typically more successful and demonstrate a greater capacity for learning because they connect with the subject matter on a meaningful level.

Experiential Learning: A learning process through direct experience, often involving hands-on activities, experiments, off-campus excursions, and real-world problem solving.

Inquiry-Based Learning: A student-centered learning approach where students develop knowledge and understanding through asking questions and then exploring and investigating their questions in a variety of ways to find answers. 

Outdoor Education vs Outdoor Learning vs Forest School:

  • Outdoor Education: Structured outdoor programs that focus on responsible recreation outdoors and/or nature preservation.  
  • Outdoor Learning: Any teaching or learning experience that occurs outdoors.
  • Forest School: A distinct educational model grounded in a philosophy that prioritizes child-led learning in an outdoor natural environment where children are inspired to discover and interact with the natural world independently, fostering not only a profound bond with nature but also with each other. It encourages hands-on, experiential learning that evolves organically, allowing children to develop holistically through self-directed exploration, inquiry, and play-based learning in a natural setting.

Pedagogy: The method and practice of teaching. In a holistic school, pedagogy often emphasizes the development of the whole child, including social and emotional aspects.

Problem-Based Learning vs Project-Based Learning:

  • Problem-Based Learning: Students learn about a subject through the experience of solving an open-ended problem.
  • Project-Based Learning: Students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, challenge, or problem.

Rubric: A rubric is a user-friendly tool used by educators and students alike to evaluate assignments or projects. Typically presented at the beginning of a task, it lays out clear criteria that describe the different levels of understanding and performance, from basic to mastery. This guide offers clear and understandable benchmarks, helping students to know exactly what is expected of them as they start and finish their work, ensuring a transparent and fair assessment process.

Student-Centered Learning: Student-Centered Learning is an educational approach that prioritizes the unique interests, abilities, and learning styles of each student as much as possible within a group setting. This method emphasizes tailored, interactive, and engaging learning experiences, giving students meaningful input and choice where possible. The goal is to inspire students to see their education as an active pursuit they shape and direct, rather than a passive process that simply unfolds around them.