Volume 26, Issue 4 (1997)
Schools as Caring Communities: A Relational Approach to School Reform
Jean A. Baker, Tara Terry, Robert Bridger, Anne Winsor
Abstract: Relational approaches to school reform are those that attempt to improve schooling by attending to the social context in which academic learning transpires. Relationally oriented approaches foster the development of caring relationships among children and teachers at school as the means of affecting children’s intellectual, social, and emotional growth. This ethic of care forms the basis of a school or classroom-wide community of interdependent learners. Skills to enhance the life of the community, such as democratic and ethically minded decision making, are actively taught and modeled at school. A community orientation based in caring and support allows children to appraise school as a meaningful social context in which to function. The ensuing sense of belonging and psychological safety, combined with significant academic work that promotes engagement in the community, enables children to achieve to their potential. This article will review the fundamental nature and mission of relationally oriented schools, present model programs, and discuss issues and future directions of this model of schooling.
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