Helping students thrive: Character Lab partner spotlight

Introducing the Partner Spotlight blog series, where we highlight an organization that has been instrumental in the research, development, and content creation of Along! This month, we are kicking off the series with a focus on Character Lab, an organization that connects researchers and educators to focus on young people’s social, emotional, academic, and physical well-being. Along recently talked to Elliot Luscombe, Partner, Strategic Business Development, about the importance of developing student-teacher communication. Read the Q&A below:

Why did you join Character Lab? I came to Character Lab in April 2020, in the early days of the pandemic. It was incredible to join the organization at such an important time. Our mission is to advance scientific insights to help kids thrive socially, emotionally, academically, and physically. I think the pandemic has revealed—in a whole new way—the importance of having advice for educators to help kids. I came aboard to work with organizations and companies to think about how we can embed our resources in products and services to reach students and teachers. 

What is the impact of establishing strong teacher-student relationships? From my perspective, the pre-pandemic education landscape acknowledged the importance of social-emotional learning and whole child development. But the pandemic shined a light on whole child development during a time when we are experiencing a crisis as a global community. This disruption will continue to have an impact on kids, and that will keep changing moving forward. There is not a world I can think of where relationships become less important. Building quality relationships will matter even more, as will acknowledging the impact of a child’s environment and current events. The pandemic has taught all of us that external factors impact how we all show up.

Why did you partner with Along? The emphasis on teacher-student relationships is focused on two of our core areas: social and emotional. When you think about developing relationships and thriving emotionally, there is overlap between them. Our partnership with Along is centered on using our evidence-based resources, Tips of the Week and Playbooks, to inform the reflection questions. Our Tips of the Week, for example, are 60 seconds of advice based on science. How can we make this advice, focused on a specific character strength, help Along to reach more teachers? We also identified ways to provide student feedback for the product. An important component of our work is making sure young people weigh in on products that will ultimately serve their needs.

How were student voices part of the process of reviewing Along’s content? We gave Along advice that they could utilize after hearing from students directly. Members of CLIP, our high school ambassador program —we call them “CLIPsters”—are trained to provide feedback to researchers, and they keep it real because they are high schoolers. We gave them the opportunity to review reflection questions and asked for their thoughts. For example, we asked about which questions they would like to answer based on how they are worded. CLIPsters are truly an extraordinary group of young people. In addition to helping with study design and review, they take part in an annual convening for our school partners and have led panels and keynotes at that event.

How can Along continue to help students and educators? What I like about Along is that any teacher from any class can use it. The depth of relationships matter across the board, and Along gives teachers another way to reach kids. It isn’t a separate thing that you do, it’s built into the work itself. It’s part of the joy of education as well, the depth of those relationships. You don’t want a world where school is completely transactional, just about what’s in the curriculum. Plus, many students prefer to engage over technology or video, so this platform is potentially very meaningful for them.