How researchers, students, and teachers shaped Along

Highlights from a July 20 webinar

“We say that relationships are important, but how much time do we actually invest in them?” said Dr. Benjamin Houltberg, webinar panelist and Interim President and CEO of Search Institute.

Research shows that when students feel seen and understood, they show up differently and that is the foundation that Along is built on. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Gradient Learning partnered with many youth-focused organizations, researchers and educators to ensure Along is grounded in the science of relationships and the experiences of teachers and students. Several of these partners from Search Institute, Grip Tape, Black Teacher Collaborative, and Understood joined us for a webinar to discuss the research in the development of Along.

“Teachers talked about how connected they were to their students and how do they know how students are doing. How do teachers prioritize students’ social and emotional needs? We kept this in mind when thinking about the design, content, and relevancy of Along and the need for a platform or process for teachers to understand what the social and emotional needs of students are right now,” said Wallace Grace, webinar panelist and Director of Innovation at Black Teacher Collaborative.

The webinar, “From Research to Check-in: Follow the Journey of a Reflection on Along,” spotlighted the collaborative process and multiple partners behind Along’s content. Panelists highlighted the lessons in bringing research to practice through the development of Along, how inclusive design can help strengthen teacher-student relationships, and the science behind developmental relationships.

To make  Along’s content responsive to the diversity of student experiences in school, we worked with partners who each brought particular lenses to the creation process—for example make it culturally-informed and racially-affirming (Black Teacher Collaborative), or accessible for the one in five students with learning differences and exceptional learning needs (Understood). Partnering with teacher leaders from Teach Plus in the development process helped us be sure Along’s content could be usable and implementable for teachers. 

Along seeks to help teachers create a learning environment where students feel seen, heard, and valued for their whole selves—an important part of building an equitable education system. The questions in Along aim to help teachers more easily get to know students and guide their growth.

“We know that inequity is something we’re all faced with and really to meet that challenge, students first need to feel known and understood,” said Melinda Evans webinar panelist and Executive Director, Learning Experiences at Understood. 

We also felt that it was critical to have both teachers and youth involved in the development process for Along, especially because their voices are often under-represented in education.

“Along allows the teacher the flexibility to decide what kind of conversation they want to have with their students,” said Yuridiana Lewis, M.Ed., webinar panelist and a 2020-2021 Teach Plus Texas Policy Senior Fellow.

Watch the webinar here.