The #1 Curriculum and Assessment Partner for Educators

Relationship Is Essential and BASE Education Can Help

Relationship Is Essential and BASE Education Can Help

I don’t know about you, but I was not a naturally gifted student. I was the kid for whom relationship was everything. When I had a teacher who connected with me, it created an environment where I felt safe and could take risks; if I did not have that connection, engagement was more of a challenge. I was the poster child for why social-emotional learning (SEL) is so essential for academic success.

It was also important to me to have a teacher who worked to understand my learning style and who looked for my strengths—something that was not always common in the 1980s. While I had lots of good teachers, there was one in particular I remember. Her name was Pam Machemer, and sadly, she passed away a few months ago from cancer. Pam taught me math and, later, European history, but the most important lessons she taught me were that I could do hard things and that I could believe in myself.

Pam was skilled in many areas and was passionate about teaching and her students. She took the time to get to know me and to find out how I learned and what I cared about. She used my strengths to support my weaknesses, building my confidence as a learner. Like me, many of you can probably identify that pivotal teacher in your own life, the one whose connection enabled you to learn new things, to try harder, or to find out something important about yourself—the one who taught you much more than a specific subject.

We now know that these relationships are fundamental to learning success. We also know that not everyone knows how to build them and that student perceptions of connection can vary greatly from those of teachers, particularly in high school.

A focus on building relationships is part of Edmentum’s approach to empowering educators to support the whole learner. Research has looked at the importance of these pivotal, relational connections; mentorship; and family cohesiveness, and there is a lot of data demonstrating their impact on academic success. One of the leaders in this research has been the work of Search Institute and its study of “developmental relationships.”

Search Institute defines developmental relationships as: “A close connection between a young person and an adult or between a young person and a peer that powerfully and positively shapes the young person's identity and helps the young person develop a thriving mindset.“

Relationship Is Essential and BASE Education Can Help

Research tells us that these fundamental relationships are essential in providing protective factors and supporting the growth of a healthy self-concept in youths.

Here are some recent data from Search Institute that was shared during the webinar "The Trifecta: Developmental Relationships, Equitable Environments, and SEL Are the Three Things Young People Need Right Now" on September 16, 2020:

Youth with strong adult relationships navigate stress and trauma better.

  • 21 times more likely to manage emotions well
  • 17 times more likely to take responsibility for actions
  • 5 times more likely to be good at making and managing plans
  • 4 times more likely to have a sense of purpose in life

Research in child development has noted for years the essential nature of connection. Many of you probably remember learning about Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. In it, Erikson highlights the importance of parental connection and influence on things like building trust, the impact of shame and doubt, and the growth of sense of self through blossoming independence. Social science research supports the importance of family connectedness in the prosocial and academic success of youth.  At a 2014 sociology conference, Michael Farrell and Grace Barnes presented findings that link adolescent behavior to social networks: “The more embedded adolescents are in family networks, the higher their GPAs and the less likely they are to smoke, use marijuana, get drunk, commit acts of major deviance. . . .”

So how do BASE Education features cultivate this connection in our schools and classrooms more intentionally and precisely?

BASE Education SEL curriculum includes features focused on supporting the growth of these essential relationships and of the connections between students and educators, parents, and learning that are unique and powerful.

While BASE Education can be used very effectively in a facilitated classroom setting, it is designed to be 100 percent online. This is because its evidence-based, clinical approach to learning is rooted in students reflecting on the material and making meaningful connections to it in their own lives. This approach creates that safe space I mentioned earlier for self-seeking and disclosure. Because it is online, the platform is familiar for today’s learners who spend large amounts of time navigating the Internet and sharing their stories on social media. It is, however, centered on focused reflection of challenging, real-world topics.

So where does relationship get built on the BASE Education platform?

The beauty of this deep, cultivated, reflection space is that it captures important messages students are thinking about or might need to share, and it makes them accessible to the supervising educator, allowing that educator a glimpse into students’ stories of their world. The ability for educators to review and learn straight from students “privately” in that real-time virtual space provides a platform for connection and a way to respond with compassion, for learning, and for the meeting of needs that builds trust and fosters relationships. It can help to bridge the gap between perceived connection and actual connection. Educators can connect individually with students around their documented responses, select questions from the courses for focused group-sharing to enhance the online experience, or facilitate full-class, whole-group learning using the course and embedded questions. For the full impact of the model, individual student use, followed by targeted individual and group discussion, supports a personal and integrated approach to building connection.

The Firewords™* feature (words that bring attention to particularly harmful language) and “Help” button (a way for students to request support from a trusted adult about a question or concern they identify) are ways in which BASE Education fosters connection and allows for real-time problem-solving and precise provision of support. These features often uncover needs that educators may not have ever known existed and identify students who educators may not have ever known were struggling.

BASE Education also has parent/guardian companion courses to help parents and caregivers connect to what students are learning. This part of the BASE Education curriculum recognizes the need for connected adults to have a body of knowledge and platform for continuing the discussion around challenging topics that youths encounter as they explore who they are and where they fit in their schools, families, communities, and the world. Connection at home is one of the single most powerful positive supports that students can have to move them toward success.

Relationships matter. At Edmentum, we know that a strong relationship can mean the difference between success and disengagement in learning. We are invested in making sure that educators have the tools to maximize the time they spend with students and to make the most of that time. We also know that the quality of relational connection is rooted in our ability to use skills built through intentional social-emotional learning. That is why we partner with BASE Education to bring you unique SEL curriculum, one rooted in evidence-based principles and best practices in the field of mental health and wellness.

For more information about BASE Education and how it can support your students watch this recorded demonstration.

jen.perry's picture
Jen Perry

Jen Perry currently serves as the Director, Whole Learning and SEL at Edmentum. Jen joined Edmentum as the Learning Designer for Social-Emotional Learning after 30+ years of work with youth in educational and community settings. As a teacher, administrator, and trainer, her passion has been to help educators develop an understanding of the importance of social and emotional learning and build trauma-informed responses and systems. This work has included supporting youth, administrators, and schools in understanding behavior and implementing transformational change through strength-based approaches.