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  • Writer's pictureGary Chapin

Belonging is Central for Equity and ALP, Part 1


This story features the work of the Hawai’i Department of Education’s Office of Hawaiian

Education. They reviewed this blog post and are happy to have us share their work with you.

Learn how to use ALP practices to promote academic learning while validating identity and expanding belonging and agency of individual learners.

— The First Corner of the ALP Theory of Action


The word, belonging, has been showing up more and more in the field, but without much discussion of what we mean by it. A superintendent says, “Kids should feel as if they belong.” Of course, this is true, but what would that look like? How would that be different from now? The concept of “belonging” as essential to equity and transformation came most strongly into the ALP community via our colleagues in Hawai’i—who were part of the first wave of ALP partners—and is informed by native Hawaiian culture and pedagogy.


The Nā Hopena A‘o (“HĀ”) policy and outcomes framework, led by the Hawai’i Department of Education’s Office of Hawaiian Education, has been one of the most extraordinary projects of the original 12 ALP grantees. Being invited into the conversation by the Hawaiian team has been one of the joys of ALP. Folks encountering it were mesmerized by HĀ’s view of belonging.


In the materials on the Nā Hopena A‘o website, “belonging,” is described in one way as “the relationship that cannot be undone.” This idea is astounding. What would it mean in a school setting to have a relationship that cannot be undone? What does it mean in the school settings in New England? In Boston? New York? Atlanta? Louisville? San Francisco?


What does it mean in Hawai’i? The designers of HĀ created the following descriptors as a starting point for a strengthened sense of Belonging.


I stand firm in my space with a strong foundation of relationships. A sense of Belonging is demonstrated through an understanding of lineage and place and a connection to past, present, and future.
I am able to interact respectfully for the betterment of self and others.

  1. Know who I am and where I am from

  2. Know about the place I live and go to school

  3. Build relationships with many diverse people

  4. Care about my relationships with others

  5. Am open to new ideas and different ways of doing things

  6. Communicate with clarity and confidence

  7. Understand how actions affect others

  8. Actively participate in school and communities


It’s remarkable that a quality as wholistic as belonging can be rendered so briefly in such comprehensive and observable terms. The Nā Hopena A‘o team came to ALP to explore the implications their framework had within the realm of assessment for learning. In future blog posts we’ll talk with that team about their learning. We’ll also talk with other ALPers about how encountering Nā Hopena A‘o has impacted our work as a community.


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