Quality Holistic Learning

The Quality Holistic Learning (QHL) Project is a response to the on-going desire among teachers for professional learning and leadership opportunities that address concerns of quality, equity, and holistic learning. The QHL project bolsters the Refugee Educator Academy by building on existing knowledge and resources in crisis, emergency, displacement, and refugee contexts. We focus on national education system curricula, tools, and resources that center inclusion, equity, and holistic learning. Specifically, we examine SEL measurement tools and competencies, asset-based pedagogies, developments in teaching and learning analytics, and evidence-based practices related to student-centered, holistic learning.

QHL is an example of how the Center for Professional Learning works with a diverse stakeholder group to develop professional learning resources and opportunities for teachers working in displacement contexts within larger national education systems. Teachers, themselves, need holistic learning opportunities; thus, our project centers teachers as self-directed learners and as leaders within their local, national, and regional contexts.

young adult in libraryOver 18 months, teachers and other key education stakeholders in four target countries—Chad, Kenya, Lebanon, and Niger—are currently working to create open educational resources (OERs) in Arabic, English, and French that include professional development courses, toolkits, communities of practice, micro-credentials, and learning analytics. The QHL Project aims to increase quality holistic learning experiences and outcomes for refugee students, other vulnerable learners, and educators across displacement contexts.

Holistic teaching and learning is not just a function of what is taught but how material is taught.

Project Overview

Over an 18-month period the Center for Professional Learning is working with teams of teachers in Lebanon, Kenya, Niger, and Chad to develop a competency-based framework for teacher professional development (PD) in refugee/displacement contexts. The framework incorporates online teaching/learning, social and emotional learning (SEL), and other key proficiencies critical to holistic learning, responsive to the COVID-19 pandemic (and other crisis contexts).

An introductory course on asset-based pedagogies and a suite of SEL/PSS professional learning resources-including two online courses, a handbook, and a set of face-to-face workshops-have been created by QHL Project Fellows in Lebanon, Kenya, and Niger. These are contextually specific resources that are being piloted in Spring 2022 by Project Fellows. Outcomes will be evaluated, and feedback reviewed before an intensive revision process. All materials, including facilitation guides, will be published as OERs in July 2022.

Project Rationale

UNESCO estimates that 69 million teachers are needed to achieve universal primary and secondary education by 2030 in line with Sustainable Development Goal 4.1. Recruiting, preparing, sustaining, and, thus, retaining quality teachers necessitates continuous investment over the full lifespan of a teaching career. This must be conducted through meaningful, connected, sustained, and responsive professional learning opportunities.

Prior to COVID-19, “skilling up” educators in displacement, emergency, and refugee contexts was already challenging. These educators, now, whether novice or master teachers, must be adept at teaching via online and remote methods. They also must be prepared to differentiate instruction and support the learning of students with significant gaps in learning due conflict, migration, and the closure of schools during the pandemic. The pandemic has exacerbated disparities in access to quality teacher professional development at a time when educators in displacement contexts need that support more than ever.


The overarching goal for this initiative is to increase quality holistic learning outcomes, encompassing both academic and social and emotional learning (SEL), for children in displacement contexts.

Specific project objectives include:

  • Increased teacher competency, including knowledge and skills necessary to promote quality holistic learning with students in displacement contexts and ability to demonstrate these competencies
  • Increased knowledge exchange around SEL and holistic teaching and learning among teachers and other education stakeholders, including INGOs, NGOs, ministries of education, etc., in displacement contexts
  • Improved data-informed teaching, including through the use of assessment, learning analytics, and reporting tools that help make teaching and learning visible to inform practice and guide continuous professional learning
  • Target Countries & Regional Hubs

    We are working within three regional hubs and with four target countries. The regional hubs include the Middle East, East Africa, and Central and West Africa. Target countries are Lebanon, Kenya, Chad, and Niger. These focal points were identified through existing partnerships, interest from new and potential partners, analysis of gaps and assets in various regions, and identification of essential capacity to execute on the project overall. They are subject to change given shifts in context, interest, or capacity.

    While the aim is that the professional learning materials for educators created through this initiative will be applicable across global displacement and crisis contexts, we believe that building from the grassroots in a few specific locations will best model processes of empowerment and professional engagement for educators that can be translated to other contexts which center iterative design processes, dialog, and reflection within communities of practice.

    Ongoing Discussions

    The topic of holistic learning is gaining traction around many education circles. It is particularly common to see it arise when considering learning in migration contexts. In such contexts, learning is sometimes relegated to being a privilege instead of a right. During the April 2022 Migration Summit, CPL Director Diana Woolis joined the Summit team for a discussion on holistic support in learning and how everyone has not just a right to learn, but to learn holistically.

    Diana was also invited to guest host the first episode of the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)’s podcast titled Reimagining Education: Distance Education in Humanitarian Settings. For this episode, Diana engaged Dr. Agnes Chigona, Research Fellow at Cape Peninsula University of Technology in South Africa, about the importance of digital fluency in education in crisis-affected contexts.

    Listen to the Podcast

    Quality Holistic Learning App

    We are currently developing a prototype app that helps teachers use effective teaching methods and measure holistic learning outcomes. Our goal is to make the impact of their teaching more visible to them and to other key stakeholders. The app guides teachers (both formally and non-formally trained) in displacement contexts in the assessment of, reflection on, and intervention in holistic learning, defined as both students’ academic achievement and their social and emotional learning (SEL) and psychosocial well-being.

    If you would like to participate in the pilot, watch this space for news about when the application opens.

    Read more

    This is how we are supporting teachers around the world in 2021

    Center for Learning in Practice Joins the International Teacher Task Force

    diverse group of professionals engaging in refugee learning training programs.

    Previous Project

    Refugee Educator Academy Read more