Here’s a pre-Thanksgiving question: How much good news can you pack into one psychology study?
Lots of psychology research focuses on human difficulties:
Why is it hard to learn and develop?
Why do people struggle to connect?
What happens when mental health decays?
The field of positive psychology — as the name suggests — turns its focus to the upsides of mental experience: human flourishing, connection, wellness, and development.
For instance: how about gratitude?
What does research tell us about gratitude? After all: we could all use a little positive focus these days…
Benefits of Connection?
A research team in Hong Kong wanted to know: how does the feeling of connection with other people help us in schools?
Working with high school students, they measured lots of variables:
students’ connection with parents, teachers, and peers
their perceived academic confidence, with things like:
study skills, time management, & creative thinking
Because they measured these variables at different times, they could identify an interesting causal pattern.
Students who felt more connected to teachers, parents, and peers (that’s good!) also felt higher levels of gratitude (that’s also good!).
And: that gratitude boost resulted in higher levels of things like study skills, time management, creative thinking, and investment in learning (those are all good too!).
This good thing (connection) led to that good thing (gratitude), which increased these other good things (school work habits and values). That’s a whole lotta positive in one psychology study.
Honestly, I don’t know we teachers will do much differently as a result of this study. I suspect we were in favor of connection before we saw this research, and we’re still in favor of connection now.
We were pro-gratitude; we still are.
At this time of year — after a 2020 that hasn’t given us much to celebrate — it might lift our spirits to see such results. Many of us got into teaching because, well, we value the connections we have with our students.
Yes: Shakespeare is great. Yes: an appreciation of Mali ‘s Imperial past inspires awe. Yes: black holes are amazingly cool and fun to study. But it’s the people we study with that really make the job joyful and worthwhile.
In other words: schools should devote lots of time to our students’ knowledge.
And: the time we take to connect with our students helps them master that knowledge.
In this year that has created so much stress — at a time we remember all that makes us thankful — it’s good to know: gratitude itself is something we can be grateful for.