The Re-Imagining Migration Approach

Our approach is based on the Re-Imagining Migration framework developed by Verónica Boix-Mansilla from Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The framework invites educators to reflect on foundational questions to ensure all young people are prepared to thrive in a world on the move.

The framework presents migration as an opportunity and prepares educators and institutions to respond to the demands and opportunities that arise with changing demographics associated with human migration flows in the US and beyond. Our approach is not to dictate to teachers what to do or exactly what they should teach on a day-to-day basis. Although we provide practical tools, lessons, resources, and professional learning to support teacher-student relationships, curriculum, and culturally responsive approaches to teaching and learning, as well as building belonging across school communities, our primary aim is to engage educators in fundamental questions about how best to prepare all young people to thrive in a time of demographic change.

For educators working in schools, museums, libraries, and communities interested in preparing immigrant-origin students, their families, and peers to participate fully in contemporary societies this framework stands as an invitation to re-frame migration not merely as a pressing challenge but mostly as an opportunity to re-imagine a new approach to education—one destined to benefit all.

Below is an introduction to the questions that are at the heart of the Re-Imagining Migration framework along with links to articles, lessons, tools, study guides and resource collections you can use to bring the framework to life in your learning community. 

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Who are the young people we are educating and how does migration impact their lives?

This shift in mindset includes the recognition of children in their full human potential, as full members of our shared humanity, living in and across contexts as wise cultural, linguistic, and economic straddlers. It involves the proactive de-stigmatization of marginalized immigrant-origin children and viewing them as beholders of assets, a bearer of rights as participating citizens of today and tomorrow.  Changing our image of the children requires understanding and building relationships with them, inquiring about their lives empathically, and committing to support all children to develop their full potential.

- Verónica Boix-Mansilla, Project Zero Harvard Graduate School of Education

In our guide A Culturally Responsive Guide to Fostering the Inclusion of Immigrant Origin Students, Carola Suárez-Orozco provides an overview of the latest scholarship about immigrant-origin youth including the first generation, language acquisition, potential responses to stress, refugees and students with interrupted formal education.

What are the most important perspectives for participating in a world on the move?

This shift in mindset involves redefining the desired outcomes of education, foregrounding competencies such as: the disposition to understand perspectives -their own and others- empathically; to inquire about the human stories of migration, to communicate and relate across differences, to recognize inequities in the experience of migration and to take action toward belonging and inclusion.  These target outcomes imply a shift in mindset regarding the purpose of education: from “covering information” to “nurturing long-lasting dispositions.” They also demand the capacity to design instruction to nurture such dispositions through signature pedagogies over time.

- Verónica Boix-Mansilla, Project Zero Harvard Graduate School of Education

To explore these ideas, read about the skills and dispositions we have identified as essential for a world on the move.

How should we teach about migration to build understanding of our shared story?

To be effective, educators will need to construct a novel view of migration not merely as “the unit we teach in the 8th grade social studies curriculum” but as a conceptual lens through which we can understand ourselves and the world around us and make informed decisions. Proposed is a new curricular approach centered on such foundational questions as: “Where do we come from?” and “What are the meaning of borders?”, with a goal of nurturing young people’s capacity to navigate their world with revealing questions and a rich repertoire of possible answers as they encounter novel cases of migration. Educators will need to deepen their own understanding of key questions about migration and develop the capacity to treat this complex topic in accessible ways across disciplines and age groups.

- Verónica Boix-Mansilla, Project Zero Harvard Graduate School of Education

To explore these ideas, visit our learning arc.

How can we create powerful learning environments for our students?

This dimension of the framework invites educators to revisit their conceptions of learning environments often cast as buildings or “places” to recognize them as “cultures”— i.e., cognitive, social, emotional and physical spaces that constitute the “air we breathe“ in a school, community center or museum. Educators will benefit from appreciating these learning environments’ long-lasting power in shaping young people’s views of themselves, the world and others. Conceived as cultures of thinking, of empathy, inclusion, respect, and participation, these learning environments are constructed and sustained through daily interactions. Re-envisioning learning environments will demand that we support educators in their efforts to create and sustain such inclusive environments attending, for instance, to culturally and linguistically responsive interactions, to the role of models, opportunities, and routines in signaling belonging and respect for human dignity.

- Verónica Boix-Mansilla, Project Zero Harvard Graduate School of Education

How do we prepare our educators for a changing world?

Finally, we understand that the shifts in mindsets and the development of capacities and tools necessary to support immigrant-origin learners and their peers effectively will demand – in the best-case scenario – deeper forms of professional engagement. Our research shows that teachers’ capacity to engage complex and sensitive dynamics in the classroom is associated with their own sense of ease or familiarity with the issues at hand. Informal “life experience” understanding plays an important role in helping educators find their own place amidst human migration narratives and recast their role as supporters of the development of youth. New, more culturally sensitive, human-centered, and intimate approaches to professional development are in order. Practices that offer teachers ample room to reflect about their place in a world, values, and biases with others and develop their voice and capacity for influence.

- Verónica Boix-Mansilla, Project Zero Harvard Graduate School of Education

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