Blog · Jun 11, 2015
A recent study headed by Christina Hinton, Ed.D. at Harvard Graduate School of Education “found that from elementary school to high school, happiness is positively correlated with motivation and academic achievement.” The study measured student happiness against GPA and found happier students have higher GPAs.
There are several ways we can cultivate student happiness. We can provide for them a safe environment where they in turn feel at ease exploring and learning. Once such an environment is established, students are more likely to forge meaningful relationships. According to Hinton’s study, bonding is an essential contributing factor to student happiness. Students “cited many reasons for their positive feelings, including feeling safe and comfortable at school and having secure relationships with their teachers and their peers.”
Student feedback from Hinton’s study also reported that fun, positive feelings helped promote learning. Incorporating social emotional learning through interactive activities is a beneficial way for students to not only gain the opportunity for healthy bonding but also to have fun doing so.
In practice, developing social emotional skills through cooperative learning designs, such as strategy games and role play, reinforces the concepts so students internalize what they learn. Hands-on experience allows students to apply the skills, while paired and group activities encourage students to collaborate, make group decisions, develop relationship skills, and resolve conflict peacefully. As a result, students develop a stronger sense of self-worth and self-efficacy to build the confidence that fuels academic success.
Students who learn how to manage their emotions have the tools they need to cope with stress in a healthy manner. In the process of building these skills, students first learn to identify their own emotions; this is as simple as students learning to pay attention to the physical signals their bodies give them to indicate how they are feeling. Then, students learn to recognize those signals in others. Activities that challenge students to “try on” a multitude of expressions help them connect how their own emotions physically feel with how those emotions appear on others’ faces. Equipped to quickly recognize emotions in others, students learn to pause and consider their own feelings before they act and to develop empathy so they can react appropriately to the feelings of others.
Teaching emotion management skills through interactive activities is a fun and effective way for students to learn to navigate their emotions and become more aware of self and others; both of which resolve stress and mitigate conflict. By building a safe and positive environment, as well as teaching the skills students need to bond with and relate to one another in a healthy way, students will be well on their way to academic success. It is no mystery why happy and healthy students make the grade.