An Approach to Heart Centered Education

By Dr. Christine Mason

Andrew Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley (2008) describe an alternative for the 21st Century. They envision the U.S. providing global leadership with its model:

Most of all, we need a vision of education as a public good that shapes the future of all of us. . . In the Fourth Way, there will still be standards, including public, human, and ethical create the schools that will undergird and catalyze our best values to regenerate and improve society. (p.61)

Their suggestion goes beyond the standards that are being recommended with the Common Core, and their recommendations are incorporated in what the Center for Educational Improvement is terming "Heart Centered Education." By that we mean education that is not overly dependent upon a focus on academic achievement or expectations for academic growth--instead an education that considers a holistic approach that will build character.

To implement Heart Centered Education, we are recommending a simple strategy that will develop humanitarian leadership and foster a positive sense of self, independence and lifelong learning. We have selected four C's that are missing from the agenda proposed by national leaders today:  

      ~ compassion  

      ~ courage   

      ~ confidence 

      ~ consciousness.  

We recommend adding these elements to lessons. However, we strongly believe that to be successful with these four values, they have to be woven into instruction on a systematic basis so that they become a part of the fabric of the individual. So a typical character education curriculum with a few lessons on each of these would be too little for the pervasive change we envision.

Adding compassion, courage, confidence, and consciousness to lessons requires that students self-assess how they incorporate these values in their own lives and how they demonstrate these traits in their daily interactions. It also requires that educators shift the focus, as students study history, literature, and science, to understand how leaders throughout history employed these traits; how these values are a part of the lives of scientists, artists, and writers; how these values are a part of the lives of citizens of different nations; and how global progress could be measured according to these metrics. It requires that teachers help to build these traits by fostering courage, helping to build student confidence and success, modeling and reinforcing compassionate responses in classroom interactions.  

Moreover, in classrooms, teachers would help increase student consciousness or awareness by building their observation skills and their understanding of themselves and others. These recommendations for Heart Centered Education build on knowledge of brain-based instruction, student interests, engagement, and adding Wow! into the lessons so that students are drawn into learning.  

Hargreaves, A.  & Shirley, D. (2008). Expecting excellence: The fourth way of change. Educational Leadership, 66, 2, 56-61.