What Drives Learning: Young People’s Perspectives on the Importance of Relationships, Belonging, and Agency

While school districts were brainstorming means to support students and educators amidst the pandemic, America’s Promise Alliance decided to reach out to high school youth to better understand their social, emotional, and cognitive learning needs.

The What Drives Learning report — published in September by the Center for Promise, the research division of America’s Promise Alliance — is grounded in the recently conducted nationally-representative survey of high school-age youth by them. The report focusses on four of the six themes that emerged through qualitative analysis of this survey data:

  • Supportive Relationships
  • Belonging
  • Agency
  • Meaningful Learning


The study findings are followed by these four recommendations for school and community leaders to improve adolescents’ learning experiences.


The study’s findings further echo the disparities and inequities of America’s education system. The report concludes with a list of suggested resources for educators, out-of-school leaders, and policymakers to inspire action.

You can access the full report here.

Categories SEL in K-12, Youth Engagement

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