Restorative Practice Strategy for Building Resilience and Student Grit in Digital Learning

Concurrent Session 3
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

Restorative practice is a relationship strategy about caring and empathy to help faculty manage power imbalances more effectively in digital learning. We will present a restorative practice learning model, including resilience and student grit. Participants apply the restorative practice in scenarios using six restorative questions to influence student success.


Dr. Tom Butkiewicz is a core research faculty member in the PhD in Management program (College of Management and Technology). His scholarly experience includes dissertation chair, second committee member, URR, lead faculty for dissertation and research courses, mentor at residencies, and reviewer for the International Journal of Applied Management and Technology. He functioned as a committee member voting on the Curriculum and Academic Policy committee. Tom serves as the vice president on the leadership board for the Walden University Virtual Fulbright Association. He also fulfills the role of faculty advisor for the National Society of Leadership and Success. Tom's research interests consist of management, positive leadership, business strategies, organizational behavior, workplace spirituality, emotional intelligence, social change, diversity, appreciative inquiry, and virtue ethics. He worked 26 years in the auto industry for Mitsubishi Motors in operations management, corporate strategic planning, training and development, marketing, district and region management, and customer service. Tom proudly concluded 20 years of honorable service as a Chief Warrant Officer—CWO3 in the United States Marine Corps Reserve. Dr. John C. Maxwell, International Leadership Expert certified Tom as a Global Leadership Speaker, Coach, and Trainer equipped to partner with individuals groups, teams, and organizations for influencing positive social change. Tom pursues positive social change further by supporting the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) society. His commitment to the MS Society involves fundraising via community walks, and bicycle rides for 18 years. Tom's positive social change focus also is shown by membership in the strategic development committee for a new church building project in CA.

Extended Abstract

The year 2020 was rife with unprecedented events related to COVID-19, civil unrest, political toxicity, and social media toxicity. Individuals, families, communities, and organizations struggled with and continue to struggle with the fallout from these events. Education systems, including K-12, colleges, and universities, are still reeling from restrictions and social distancing requirements due to COVID-19, many of which are still challenged with pivoting to online teaching and digital learning formats. Many employees and leaders are also troubled with the pivot to remote work.

Teaching practices, particularly related to behavior issues or conflict, have traditionally relied on a win-lose dynamic. The primary focus was on pointing out wrong-doing and placing blame and shame on individuals. Punitive measures serve as the traditional solution. We are presenting a restorative strategy as an alternative to the traditional punitive approach to addressing behavioral concerns or conflict. Restorative practice is a relationship strategy based upon caring and empathy that may help faculty and staff manage power imbalances more effectively, especially during a pandemic or other crisis. Restorative practices emerged from restorative justice practices that are commonly used in the criminal justice system. The restorative practice strategy is grounded in developing community, resolving conflicts and tensions, repairing harm, and building quality academic relationships. There are nine restorative practice elements: (a) healthy relationships, (b) voice, (c) fair process, (d) structure and support, (e) safety, (f) empathy and perspective-taking, (g) ownership, (h) learning, and (i) belonging and interdependence. Restorative practices enable environments in which individuals experience respect through conversation in which they contribute to solutions rather than solutions or conditions imposed upon them. Results lead to action that helps repair and restore relationships. 

We will present a restorative practice learning model encompassing self, perseverance, culture, strength, and restorative practice. Restorative practice can involve several strategies to facilitate improved  relationships. Specifically, the model reflects the relationship between the individual competencies, including emotional intelligence and self-awareness, individual grit, personal resilience, and societal or organizational characteristics. We will discuss the importance of competencies, such as those presented by The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) framework consisting of core competencies including self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Next, we will discuss the importance of grit and the importance of developing a growth mindset. Grit enables individuals to carry on with passion and perseverance toward the achievement of goals. We believe that culture, whether organizational, community, or culture in a broader context, also plays a role in relationships and will discuss how cultural norms influence our approach to conflict. Moreover, structural constructs, such as policies and procedures, inform cultural norms and cues. We will discuss further the importance of resilience for individuals, groups, and organizations. Resilience involves the ability to successfully rebound from and adapt to stressful situations. Finally, the heart of our model is restorative practice. We offer the idea that facilitating dialog regarding these constructs and their importance to individuals and communities can strengthen relationships and potentially enhance student outcomes.

Restorative justice evolved out of practices used by the Maori in New Zealand. We do not intend to diminish the role that restorative justice has in different multicultural settings. Restorative justice and restorative practice and philosophy are used in families, schools, workplaces, faith communities, communities, and post-conflict transition in countries moving beyond oppressive governments and civil wars. Rather, we are embracing the value of restorative practices in everyday circumstances. Our focus is on higher education; however, the strategy we discuss has application in families, among friends, and so forth. We will introduce one restorative practice strategy involving six restorative questions that are used in restorative conversations. Participant interaction will be enhanced by creating a wordle and responding to polls. Participants in this workshop will have the opportunity to discuss cultural norms or cues prevalent pertaining to the communication styles and relationships in their organizations. Participants also may identify opportunities for improvement and will have a chance to apply the restorative questions by engaging in mock scenarios.


1. Introduction:  Restorative Practice

  1. Developing Community
  2. Managing Conflict and Tensions
  3. Repairing Harm
  4. Building Relationships

2. Restorative Practice Learning Model

  1. Self – Competencies
  2. Perseverance – Grit
  3. Culture – Societal
  4. Strength – Resilience

3. Activity – What cultural norms or cues about relationships and conflict are prevalent in your organizations? What are opportunities for improvement?

  1. How do leaders talk to staff?
  2. How do staff talk to leaders and other staff?
  3. How do faculty and staff talk about students?
  4. How do you talk to students?
  5. How is conflict handled?
  6. How is a community developed?
  7. What policies inform cultural norms or cues pertaining to relationships or conflict?

4. Restorative Questions

  1. From your perspective, what happened?
  2. What were you thinking at the time?
  3. What are you thinking now?
  4. Who was affected by that?
  5. What could we have done differently?
  6. What needs to happen next?

5. Restorative Practice Conversation Scenario Example

6. Restorative Practice Conversation Scenario Application

Description of how the session will add value for the target audience.

Caring and empathy are essential in all relationships that comprise three groups: (a) relationships between students and faculty, (b) students and staff, and (c) between employees at all levels within an organization. There are times when faculty and staff must engage with students who are not meeting academic expectations or who are facing disciplinary action due to inappropriate behaviors. Frequently, the tendency is to place blame and assign punishment automatically. Traditional higher education policies and procedures often reinforce the blame and punishment culture, which does not nurture relationships or individual growth. Restorative questioning allows individuals first to understand what happened, thereby giving voice to those involved. Restorative questioning also reinforces social and emotional learning core competencies such as self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness, relationship skills, and decision making and may even influence student outcomes by reinforcing emotional intelligence, grit, and resilience; and organizational results by supporting a compassionate culture. This workshop will add value to the participants in three ways. First, participants of this workshop will learn how to apply restorative questions to conversations with students that may support individual well-being, achievement, and relationships by focusing on a positive sense of self, spirit, and belonging. Second, participants will also leave with an understanding of cultural norms or cues related to communication styles and relationships most prevalent in their organizations. Third, participants will supplement their professional toolkit with six restorative questions using a restorative practice strategy for building resilience and student grit in digital learning. Adding value to the participants in this workshop has a potential compound effect when the participants add value to others for outcomes that influence positive social change.