Helping Adolescents to Feel Competent and Purposeful — Not Just Happy — May Improve Grades

The following is excerpted from an online article posted by ScienceDaily.

Encouraging adolescents to feel capable and purposeful — rather than just happy — could improve their academic results as well as their mental health, according to new research which recommends changing how wellbeing is supported in schools.

The University of Cambridge study, involving over 600 teenagers from seven English schools, examined two separate aspects of their well-being: life satisfaction and ‘eudaimonia’. While life satisfaction roughly equates to how happy a person is, eudaimonia refers to how well that person feels they are functioning. It incorporates feelings of competence, motivation, and self-esteem.

Researchers found that students with high levels of eudaimonia consistently outperformed their peers in GCSE-level assessments, especially Maths. On average, those achieving top Maths grades had eudaimonic well-being levels 1.5 times higher than those with the lowest grades.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Tania Clarke, is a psychologist of education who now works for the Youth Endowment Fund but undertook the study for her doctoral research at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. The findings are published in School Psychology Review.

“Wellbeing education often focuses on teaching students about being happy and not being sad,” Clarke said. “That is over-simplistic and overlooks other vital qualities of wellbeing that are particularly salient during the formative period of adolescence.”

“Adolescents also need to develop self-awareness, confidence, and ideally a sense of meaning and purpose. Judging by our findings, an adolescent who is currently getting a 3 or 4 on their Maths GCSE could be helped to rise a couple of grades if schools emphasized these qualities for all students, rather than just promoting positivity and minimizing negative emotions.”

The study involved 607 adolescents aged 14-15.

Source: ScienceDaily

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[reposted by] Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord culture blog also appears on and Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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