Connecting and Contributing

This driver of Powerful Learning highlights the interconnectedness and relationships that students need in order to develop global competencies, enabling them to connect and contribute meaningfully.


In Powerful Learning, teachers intentionally design learning experiences that will help students to better understand themselves and the world they live in. 

The interconnectedness of our changing world requires that students understand the complex dynamics of globalization and are able to form judgements and take action.  

As well, learning experiences need to acknowledge the interconnectivity of both cognitive and emotional development.


Powerful Learning recognizes the need for students to be able to:

  •  practice positive, safe and healthy behaviors
  • learn to contribute ethically and responsibly to their peer group, family, school and local and global community
  • strive to possess core competencies, work habits and values as a foundation for meaningful employment and engaged citizenship (as cited in Greenberg et al, 2003.) 


Powerful Learning experiences engage students in issues and tasks of value to themselves and the world. Students are encouraged to form positive connections and make positive contributions. 

Digital technologies have a significant role to play because they shape students’ outlook on the world, their interactions with each other and also their perceptions of themselves. 

It is important to meaningfully use technology to help students understand global issues and how they might be able to engage in tackling social, political, economic and environmental challenges. 

As well, students need to be taught how to meaningfully, effectively, and appropriately engage with technology.

Powerful Learning also recognizes the need for the “well-being” of all students. Academic development is one area to nurture, along with physical, social and emotional growth.

 It is essential that our classrooms are places where students feel they belong and where relationships are actively developed. Belonging and connectedness are of utmost importance in order for students to flourish.

 As well, there is a need for the teacher to model empathy and compassion, embracing differences and acceptance of all students. 

A focus on meaningful, effective communication helps teachers and students to actively listen to each other and to understand. 

Statements such as “tell me what you meant” rather than “use your words” implies a belief in the competency and capabilities of every child and a belief that every child can learn Clinton 2017 as cited in Fullan, 2018.

Learning and brain development is shaped by social-emotional conditions, as well as the cognitive experience that students are provided through choice and authentic powerful tasks. 

Students’ well-being is intentionally nurtured through the culture created in the classroom. Careful consideration is needed to ensure that the best possible social-emotional conditions exist in classrooms in Golden Hills School Division.

Connecting and Contributing begins with students being able to connect with themselves, which includes self-awareness and self- regulation. Students who are self-aware utilize metacognitive strategies such as planning, monitoring and evaluating their thinking and learning experiences. Powerful Learning focuses on this because being able to self-monitor is an essential skill for life. Students need to learn how to demonstrate social, emotional and behavioral responsibility and regulation. The development of self-regulation provides the foundation for higher metacognitive functioning, which enables students to respond to complex challenges.

CASEL 2008 identifies five core competencies in social and emotional learning: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.

Self-Awareness Self-awareness is defined as the ability to accurately recognize one’s emotions and thoughts and their influences on behavior. This includes accurately assessing one’s strengths and limitations and possessing a well-grounded sense of confidence and optimism.
Self-Management Self-management is defined as the ability to regulate ones’ emotions, thoughts and behaviors effectively in different situations. This includes managing stress, controlling impulses, motivating oneself, and setting and working toward achieving personal and academic goals.
Social Awareness Social awareness is defined as the ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others from diverse background and cultures, to understand social and ethical norms for behavior, and to recognize family, school and community resources and supports.
Relationship Skills Relationship skills are the ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups. This includes communicating clearly, listening actively, cooperating, resisting inappropriate social pressure, negotiating conflict constructively and seeking and offering help when needed
Responsible Decision Making Responsible decision-making is defined as the ability to make responsible and constructive choices about personal behavior and social interaction based on consideration of ethical standards, safely concerns, social norms, the realistic evaluation of the consequences of various actions and the well-being of self and others.

Self-regulation is the ability for a student to adjust their level of alertness and how they display their emotions through their behavior to attain goals in socially adaptive ways (Bronson, 2001). The need for the intentional integration of instruction in self-regulation has become evident.

Ensuring that students experience “caring and connectedness” is particularly important in a Powerful Learning environment. The basic need of belonging is foundational in order for students to flourish and as such, requires intentional orchestration on the part of the teacher.

Connecting and Contributing through meaningful relationships is at the heart of Powerful Learning. Through the trust and respect fostered in the classroom, teachers and students assume positive intentions and seek to build and maintain relationships with others. Teachers work to establish solid partnerships with families, communities and with students. New and different perspectives are achieved with the collision of ideas that spark curiosity as well as learning and growing together.

Peer Connections

Peers connections are fostered in multiple ways in the classroom. Students are directly taught how to interact in socially skilled and respectful ways. There is a shared responsibility where students support the learning of peers and they understand the role others play in supporting their own learning. A sense of hope and optimism drives the learning and helps students move to increasingly complex tasks as they work together. To build peer connections, teachers intentionally teach perspective taking skills and ways to handle conflict. Learning to show empathy is important.

Effective communication is required for meaningful peer connections, as well as collaboration and interpersonal skills and personal, social and civic responsibility. Collaborative skills that might be taught in a Powerful Learning classroom include listening, reasoning together and building upon each other’s ideas.

Ways to Facilitate Peer Connections
  • Explicitly teaching how to effectively communicate and resolve conflict
  • Modelling
  • Accountable Talk strategy
  • Choosing groups randomly and allowing students to see the random process
  • Choosing groups based on common interests or passions
  • Defining clear roles or jobs for students
  • Reciprocal Teaching
  • Outlining clear expectations of collaboration

Student-Teacher Relationship

In Powerful Learning, the role of the teacher shifts from one of delivering content and the “holder” of knowledge to that of “orchestrator, designer and co-learner.” Teachers are partners in the learning with the students. As teachers establish trust, honesty, respect and open communication, learning in a Powerful Learning classroom is accelerated. The teacher-student relationship involves developmentally appropriate interactions with the teacher in the role of as activator. “Teacher as activator plays a dynamic, interactive role with students to define meaningful learning goals, establish success criteria, and develop student skills in learning to learn so that they become reflective, metacognitive learners” (Fullan Teachers help students make their thinking visible and use effective feedback to move learning forward. As well, teachers know their students well because of the daily investment in relationship building with their students. Students are valued, connected, feel a sense of belonging and are given choice and voice in worthwhile work.

The teacher-student relationship is divided into three components by researchers Fisher (2018).

·       Invitational: The teacher creates a space that invites students into the learning.

·       Equitable: The teacher provides all students with the opportunity to develop a meaningful relationship with each other and the teacher.

·       Advocacy: The teacher advocates for all members of the classroom and creates a safe space to grow. (Fisher et. al. 2018 (pg 26),)

The importance of the teacher in the role as activator is supported through research in the meta-analysis of research studies conducted by Hattie (2012). Hattie found a much lower effect size for “Teacher as Facilitator“(.17) compared to “Teacher as Activator” (.60). Teacher as Activator research included the categories of reciprocal teaching, feedback, teacher-student self-verbalizations, meta-cognition, goal challenging, frequent checks on effects of teaching.

Ways to Foster Student-Teacher Relationships
  • Greet each student every day or at the beginning of every class at the door
  • Acknowledge and smile at students in the hallway
  • Ask students about their weekends
  • Talk to students about what they are interested in and passionate about
  • Include student voice in your classroom design and decisions
  • Talk about yourself with your students, and allow them to get to know you
  • Listen when students speak
  • Celebrate each student’s uniqueness

Parent Partnerships

Teachers form a partnership with parents and community that is built upon trust and transparency. It moves beyond the usual two-way communication during parent teacher conferences and events at school. Fullan et. al (2018) talks about a higher level of engagement from parents when student-led conferences and exhibitions of learning occur where students articulate what, how, and how well they are learning (pg. 71). In Powerful Learning it is understood that education is a shared responsibility of school, family and community. Therefore, strategies are put into place to ensure that parents are partners and feel welcome in the school and join in making decisions that impact their child’s learning.


 Ways to Build Parent Partnerships

  • Student Led Conferences/Celebrations of Learning
  • Emails to Parents – both to highlight students’ successes and let parents’ know about concerns
  • Phone Calls to Parents – both to highlight students’ successes and let parents’ know about concerns
  • Bring in Parents as Experts in their field
  • Parent Advisory Council
  • Remind app to communicate
  • Social Media to communicate
  • Daily Agendas
  • Digital or E-Portfolio platforms like FreshGrade or SeeSaw
  • Parent volunteers in the classroom or on field trips

Connecting and Contributing locally and globally requires knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that enable students to achieve a more inclusive, just and peaceful world. This moves learning beyond the classroom and into local and global communities. When students are making local and global connections they are able to observe, interact, collaborate and create with experts across the world. Social media and communication technologies create endless opportunities for collaboration and shared learning. This interconnectedness provides opportunities for ongoing local and global connections and contributions by our students.

Connecting and Contributing locally and globally necessitates that students develop the skills of citizenship and social responsibility. Golden Hills recognizes the central role schools play in helping students to think and act in ways that promote a more tolerant and sustainable world. With this in mind, teachers strive for students to recognize the potential and power of each individual contribution to local communities.

In order to foster active citizenship, it is important to teach students to ask challenging questions about their world. According to Westheimer (pg. 12, 2015), “improving society requires embracing questions and controversies so that citizens can engage in democratic dialogue and work together toward understanding and enacting sensible policy decisions.” Powerful Learning tasks are designed to develop active citizenship and encourage students to think critically about important social assumptions and social issues. Westheimer describes three types of citizens, which include:

  • Personally Responsible Citizens
  • Participatory Citizens
  • Social Justice Oriented Citizens


Connecting and Contributing locally helps students develop their understanding through enhanced learning experiences within the local community. Contributing locally asks students to take action that contributes to the betterment of the community’s collective well-being. Students are able to make tangible connections and witness first-hand the impacts of their contributions in their communities.

Connecting and Contributing locally helps students develop their understanding through enhanced learning experiences within the local community. Contributing locally asks students to take action that contributes to the betterment of the community’s collective well-being. Students are able to make tangible connections and witness first-hand the impacts of their contributions in their communities.

Connecting and Contributing Locally

Connecting Locally
  • Engage with local experts
  • Skype or Google Hangout
  • Classroom Visit
  • Question and Answer Forum
  • Debates
  • Visit to Local Sites
  • Field trips or excursions
  • Authentic audience for assessments
  • Connect with local newspapers, radios, and news stations
  • Build sustained community partnerships
  • Connect with local First Nations communities, such as Siksika Nation and Métis community members
  • Develop personal understanding of Indigenous ways of knowing, history, and perspective



Contributing Locally

  • Community Clean Ups
  • Reading to Seniors or Younger Audiences
  • Volunteering with various organizations
  • Mentoring Programs
  • Collecting items for Food Banks or Crisis Shelters
  • Green or Environmental Initiatives
  • Beautifying the Community/Art Projects
  • Fundraising for Local Causes or Programs


Connecting and Contributing globally helps students develop and extend their learning to another level through authentic engagement with international people, concerns, and issues. Global contributions require students to take action on problems at an international level. It also challenges students to improve society and the environment globally. This encourages students to make our world more sustainable, diplomatic, and equitable in order to contribute in a meaningful way.

Connecting and Contributing Globally







Connecting Globally

  • Participate in National or Global Initiatives
    • Orange Shirt Day
    • Girls Who Code
    • World Read Aloud Day
    • Earth Day
    • Terry Fox Run
    • Poppy Campaign
    • Red Nose Day
    • Pink Shirt Day
    • Bell Let’s Talk Day
  • Connect to experts on a Global level
    • Skype or Google Hangout
    • Letters or Emails
  • Digital Platforms such as World Viewz
  • Conferences
  • Authentic audience for assessments
  • National and Global social media audiences and communication
  • National and Global newspapers, radios, and news stations
  • Build a global competence and cultural understanding
  • Perspective
  • Reading literature and watching videos from diverse global authors and creators
  • Enhance and develop perspective
Contributing Globally
  • International service and volunteering
  • Building schools in communities that need it
  • Fundraising for global causes and initiatives
  • Engaging with global charities
  • Me to We
  • Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Campaign
  • Golden Hills International Program
  • Addressing, researching, and solving national and global problems