Restorative Practices Promote More Productive & Engaged Learning Environments
Educational research makes clear that improved academic outcomes occur when students participate in a learning environment where there is a shared sense of community and where each student feels respected and a sense of belonging.
To help foster this type of educational atmosphere, CCSD93 is in the process of implementing restorative practices, which are a systematic way to build community so that each student feels included and accountable to their peers. Staff members are trained on a variety of methods that are consistently employed in school and classroom settings, and data is collected to measure the success of implementation.
One restorative practice method is the use of community circles. In a community circle, students meet regularly with their class to each answer a common question. During this time each student is provided the opportunity to speak so that their voice is heard while all other students practice the skill of actively listening. By consistently engaging with one another in the manner, students find common ground, build empathy and perspective-taking skills, and develop a sense of responsibility toward one another. With this groundwork laid, when the class experiences behavioral concerns, they are able to convene in a similar circle to address the issue with greater success and a lower likelihood of recurrence than otherwise.
Another restorative practice method is the use of affective questions, which prompt an individual who has disrupted learning or otherwise caused harm to think about their behavior, how it impacted others, and what can be done to repair the situation and restore relationships. In these circumstances, the student who has caused harm takes an active role in any necessary resolution and receives logical consequences for their actions.
Western Trails Elementary School has served as the pilot for restorative practices in CCSD93 and is in the 5th year of implementation. The results have been noteworthy, as data from Western Trails indicates improved relationships among students and between students and staff as well as less recurring behavioral issues. The school has reached the point where students have been observed solving problems by employing restorative practices themselves with little or no adult facilitation. While other district schools are just getting started, CCSD93 is confident that by implementing restorative practices with fidelity, all schools will reach this level of productivity and engagement.
For more on restorative practices, visit www.ccsd93.com/TalkD93 for an episode of CCSD93’s podcast, TalkD93, devoted to the subject.