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Goals for Youth Learning and Development*

*Adapted from Design Principles for Schools: Putting the Science of Learning and Development Into Action , 2021

Our goals for youth learning and development are grounded in the science of learning and development (SoLD) and serve as the building blocks for the design principles for settings across the learning and development ecosystem. They capture the orientations, skills, habits, and mindsets that we hope all young people will develop and maintain as a result of their experiences in k–12 schools and community-based learning and development settings.

These goals acknowledge the complexity of development and span multiple domains of learning, including social and emotional development, identity development, physical well-being, mental wellness, cognitive development, ethical and moral development, and academic development. The skills are reinforcing and build upon one another in ways that allow for greater synergy among developmental goals and contribute to the development of complex, higher-order skills. While we categorize the goals under the area of development with which they most align, we acknowledge that the goals are cross-cutting and integrative.

Research also suggests that some skills are foundational, and children’s skills develop in unique and integrated ways based on their web of experiences. A child’s progress in developing one skill set can accelerate or impede progress in another area. Our goals hope to capture elements of that progression toward the final end point but recognize that young people follow different pathways as they develop.

We also acknowledge that these goals are not developed in siloes. They require deliberate action on the part of adults, communities, and policymakers to support youth on their learning and developmental journeys by ensuring that they have access to services and environments with the necessary preconditions that enable healthy development. This must include intentional actions to address the oppression of historically marginalized communities and systemic racism that exacerbate inequalities in education. Such support also requires a unified, comprehensive, and equitable system for addressing barriers to learning and teaching and re- engaging disconnected students.


In generating our goals, we identified aims that align with the framework developed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative for whole child development and its six domains (i.e., academic development, cognitive development, identity development, social-emotional development, mental health, and physical health). In addition, we included an ethical and moral development domain to emphasize that individual goals are connected to larger community aims and elevate the civic mission of education. Goals are currently categorized under the development dimension with which they most align, but they are interrelated and mutually reinforcing.

The goals themselves were also inspired by and adapted from materials generated by several organizations and experts who have been working to promote school transformation principles and practices supported by the science of learning and development. These include:


Learners can think critically and creatively to solve complex problems.

They can:

  • pose questions and seek out relevant resources and tools to answer them;
  • generate new ideas and fresh perspectives;
  • adapt to emerging demands and tasks;
  • evaluate information, evidence, and ideas from multiple sources and perspectives, recognizing personal biases and those of others;
  • analyze and synthesize diverse bodies of knowledge and apply their knowledge to answer questions and create solutions;
  • use metacognitive skills to reflect on and manage their own learning process; and
  • set and work toward meaningful personal and collective goals with a strong sense of agency and purpose.

Learners deeply understand content and can apply their knowledge beyond the classroom.

They can:

  • understand central concepts and ways of knowing in a discipline and engage in essential modes of inquiry within and across disciplines;
  • explain and demonstrate how major ideas and concepts relate to each other and to the work they are doing;
  • transfer and use knowledge to solve problems in novel contexts or situations; and
  • positively contribute to and support the learning of peers.

Learners are self-aware and engage meaningfully with others.

They can:

  • recognize their own emotions, thoughts, and values and how these influence behavior;
  • successfully regulate their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations— effectively managing stress, controlling impulses, resisting inappropriate social pressure, and motivating themselves;
  • assess their strengths and areas for development, with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism, and a growth mindset;
  • persevere, problem-solve, seek assistance, and exhibit resilience in the face of ambiguity and challenge;
  • establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups, empathetically supporting their learning and development;
  • take the perspective of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures; and
  • communicate clearly, listen well, cooperate with others, negotiate conflict constructively, and offer help when needed.

Learners hold a positive sense of identity, self- potential, purpose, and direction.

They have:

  • a positive sense of their racial, ethnic, cultural, gender, sexual, and spiritual identities and appreciate other aspects of their identity that contribute to their personhood;
  • a sense of agency and the ability to make choices grounded in their values and take an active role in their life paths, rather than solely being the product of their circumstances;
  • the ability to make constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions to support the well-being of self and others;
  • the ability to reflect on what they care about, what they hope to accomplish in life, and how their actions relate to their goals;
  • the ability to identify and develop areas of interest that support a strong sense of purpose and fulfillment; and
  • the ability to see themselves as a vital part of their communities and as having value and making a unique and fruitful contribution to their communities.

Learners make healthy life choices. 

  • have access to healthy food, clean water, and other positive environmental conditions that enable them to live healthy lives;
  • have access to mental wellness services, tools, and resources to develop healthy coping strategies that support them in healing and building resilience from stressful events;
  • engage in healthy eating, nutrition, and activity to promote learning and physical well- being and are supported by the adults in their schools and community to do so;
  • establish lifelong patterns of healthy behavior;
  • have a positive relationship with and awareness of their body;
  • develop positive mindsets and have tools to cope with and move beyond negative or destructive emotions, including depression and anxiety;
  • hold a mindful commitment to making choices that optimize their physical and mental health and serve their bodies, minds, and spirits well; and
  • understand the role health plays in positive learning and development and advocate for themselves and others to improve conditions that support healthy choices for all individuals, including those who are enabled and those who have physical impairments.

Learners are empathetic, ethical, and proactive in contributing to the welfare of their communities.


  • treat others with respect and consideration;
  • understand how their individual actions contribute to their community in and out of the classroom;
  • contribute to efforts to create and uphold a just and inclusive learning environment;
  • value and respect the perspectives and experiences of peers and adults from different racial, ethnic, linguistic, and economic backgrounds as well as those with different sexual orientations, those who learn differently, or those who have disabilities;
  • collaborate and communicate effectively across lines of difference; and
  • use their knowledge to advocate for themselves and others to advance civic ideals.