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Teaching well-being increases academic performance: Evidence from Bhutan, Mexico, and Peru

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Can well-being be taught at a large scale, and should it be taught in schools? Does teaching well-being improve academic performance? In Study 1, 18 secondary schools (n=8,385 students) in Bhutan were randomly assigned to a treatment group (k=11) or a control group (k=7). The treatment schools received an intervention targeting ten non-academic well-being skills. Study 2 was a replication study at a larger scale in 70 secondary schools (m = 68,762 students) in Mexico. The schools were randomly assigned to a treatment group (j = 35) or a control group (j = 35). Study 3 was the last replication study at a larger scale in 694 secondary schools (q = 694,153 students) in Peru. The schools were randomly assigned to a treatment group (h = 347) or a control group (h = 347). In all three studies, students in the intervention schools reported significantly higher well-being and they performed significantly better on standardized national exams at the end of a 15-month intervention. In Study 1, the results for both well-being and academic performance remained significant 12 months after the intervention ended. For Studies 2 and 3, time will tell if our results endure 12 months after the end of the intervention. In all three studies, perseverance, engagement, and quality of relationships emerged as the strongest mechanisms underlying increases in well-being and enhanced academic performance. Our results suggest that, independent of social, economic, or cultural contexts, teaching well-being in schools on a large scale is both feasible and desirable.
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Teaching Well-Being Increases Academic
Performance: Evidence From Bhutan, Mexico, And
Peru
Alejandro Adler
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Teaching Well-Being Increases Academic Performance: Evidence From
Bhutan, Mexico, And Peru
Abstract
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TEACHING WELL-BEING INCREASES ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE: EVIDENCE
FROM BHUTAN, MEXICO, AND PERU
Alejandro Adler
A DISSERTATION
in
Psychology
Presented to the Faculties of the University of Pennsylvania
in
Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the
Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
2016
Supervisor of Dissertation Graduate Group Chairperson
________________________ ________________________
Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D. Sara Jaffee, Ph.D.
Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology Professor, Psychology
Dissertation Committee
Angela Lee Duckworth, Ph.D.
Professor, Psychology
Philip E. Tetlock, Ph.D.
Leonore Annenberg University Professor of Psychology and Management
ii
To my mother and my father, with all of a son’s love
iii
ACKNOWLEDGMENT
First and foremost, I would like to thank my tremendous PhD advisor, Martin Seligman,
for his unwavering belief in my capabilities and my ideas, as far-fetched (intellectually
and geographically) as they were at times throughout this five-year journey.
Marty, without you and your unconditional support, I would not be where I am today.
Full stop.
I would also like to express my gratitude to my two brilliant committee members, Angela
Duckworth and Philip Tetlock, for providing significant support and encouragement
throughout the latter years of my doctoral experience. Beyond my dissertation committee,
there are a few scholars who have contributed significantly to my academic and non-
academic growth. Thank you, Paul Rozin, Dan Wagner, James Pawelski, Eranda
Jayawickreme, and Peggy Kern.
I would like to acknowledge the incredible staff at the Positive Psychology Center (PPC)
and those who are affiliated to it, in particular Peter Schulman, Linda Newsted, Karina
Kzoka, and Jessica Plummer. Without your invaluable work in keeping the wheels of the
PPC running smoothly, none of us would be able to do the work we do, myself most
definitely included.
I would like to thank my three closest friends and colleagues at Penn: Johannes
Eichstaedt, David Yaden, and Emily Larson. Thank you dearly, for everything.
The dedication of this dissertation to my parents is particularly purposeful. My mother
and father have made all the difference in my life since the day I was born. Thank you for
infusing my life with love, unconditional support in the good times and the not so good
ones, and with a strong sense of belongingness, purpose, and family values. You have
been with me every step of the way. I love you and I am infinitely grateful.
To my siblings Fanny and Max, thank you for loving me as I am with such strong
fraternal and sororal affection and for letting me love you equally in return. I have
nothing but the deepest respect and the highest admiration for both of you. We walk
together in life, today and always.
To my life-long best friend, Alejandro Souza – you embody everything that my work
aims to embed in youth around the world: true wisdom, strength of character, love of life,
and knowing that you are worthy of dreaming, of making plans out of your dreams, and
of empowering others to live the lives to which they aspire. Thank you for empowering
me to become the best possible version of myself and to live the life of which I have
always dreamt. We fly together, today and always.
Finally, to the love of my life, Paula, it is all for you, because of you, and for us. It is you
and us that gave me a constant guiding compass throughout the inexplicably magical
rollercoaster of everything leading up to this moment. I cannot wait to spend the rest of
iv
my life with you, with a joint vision for the world, with our shared values, and with our
home, one that we can always come back to, to celebrate the best moments in life and to
balm and rekindle each other with love during the challenges that we will encounter and
grow from together. Thank you, for everything.
v
ABSTRACT
TEACHING WELL-BEING INCREASES ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE: EVIDENCE
FROM BHUTAN, MEXICO, AND PERU
Alejandro Adler
Martin E.P. Seligman
Can well-being be taught at a large scale, and should it be taught in schools? Does
teaching well-being improve academic performance? In Study 1, 18 secondary schools
(n=8,385 students) in Bhutan were randomly assigned to a treatment group (k=11) or a
control group (k=7). The treatment schools received an intervention targeting ten non-
academic well-being skills. Study 2 was a replication study at a larger scale in 70
secondary schools (m = 68,762 students) in Mexico. The schools were randomly assigned
to a treatment group (j = 35) or a control group (j = 35). Study 3 was the last replication
study at a larger scale in 694 secondary schools (q = 694,153 students) in Peru. The
schools were randomly assigned to a treatment group (h = 347) or a control group (h =
347). In all three studies, students in the intervention schools reported significantly higher
well-being and they performed significantly better on standardized national exams at the
end of a 15-month intervention. In Study 1, the results for both well-being and academic
performance remained significant 12 months after the intervention ended. For Studies 2
and 3, time will tell if our results endure 12 months after the end of the intervention. In all
three studies, perseverance, engagement, and quality of interpersonal relationships
emerged as the strongest mechanisms underlying how increases in well-being improved
academic performance. Our results suggest that, independent of social, economic, or
vi
cultural context, teaching well-being in schools at a large scale is both feasible and
desirable.
vii
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENT ................................................................................................ VIII
ABSTRACT ....................................................................................................................... V
LIST OF TABLES……………………………………………..………………………VIII
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS………………………………….…………………………IX
PREFACE………………………..……………………………………………………….X
INTRODUCTION………………………..……………………………………………….1
STUDY 1: GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS IN BHUTAN………………………….14
STUDY 2: EDUCACION PARA EL BIENESTAR IN JALISCO, MEXICO ..….…….28
STUDY 3: ESCUELAS AMIGAS IN PERU………….…………..…………………….38
DISCUSSION………………..……….………………………………………………….48
APPENDIX……….……………………..……………………………………………….56
BIBLIOGRAPHY.……………………………………………………………………….77
LIST OF TABLES
Table 1 26
From a three-step to a two-step stepwise linear regression model
Table 2 27
Model Summary (dependent variable: Academic performance t1)
Table 3 27
Model Summary (dependent variable: Academic performance t1)
Table 4 36
Model Summary (dependent variable: Academic performance t1)
Table 5 37
Model Summary (dependent variable: Academic performance t1)
Table 6 37
Model Summary (dependent variable: Academic performance t1)
Table 7 47
Model Summary (dependent variable: Academic performance t1)
Table 8 47
Model Summary (dependent variable: Academic performance t1)
Table 9 48
Model Summary (dependent variable: Academic performance t1)
ix
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Figure 1 26
Youth Well-being (EPOCH)
Figure 2 27
Standardized Test Scores in Bhutan
Figure 3 35
Youth Well-being (EPOCH) in Jalisco, Mexico
Figure 4 36
Standardized Test Scores in Jalisco, Mexico
Figure 5 45
Youth Well-being (EPOCH) in Peru
Figure 6 46
Standardized Test Scores in Peru
Figure 7 51
Cohen’s D vs. Number of Students (Well-being)
Figure 8 52
Cohen’s D vs. Number of Students (Academic Performance)
x
PREFACE
“Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these
only gave them life, those the art of living well.”
- Aristotle (384 BC 322 BC)
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
- Nelson Mandela (1918 2013)
Human beings are cognitively, emotionally, and behaviorally malleable (Bandura,
Adams, & Beyer, 1977; Rudman, Ashmore, & Gary, 2001; Schaefer et al., 2002). What
can we aspire to when we shape human beings, particularly in education settings?
Education has the implicit connotation that it prepares humans for life during their
earliest and two most malleable phases: childhood and adolescence (Compas et al.,
2001). Reflecting the global economic transition during the 18th and 19th Century
Industrial Revolution, our current education system seeks to prepare students to excel
academically and to eventually be productive in the workplace. It does not, however,
teach students the skills, knowledge, and wisdom that they need to flourish in life beyond
grades, standardized exams, and productivity reflected in monetary wages. Our current
education system does not teach children and adolescents how to live what has
perennially and universally been deemed as the good life – a life infused with meaning,
purpose, love, virtue, character, connectedness, health, and a sense of self-efficacy,
autonomy, and mastery (Seligman, Ernst, Gillham, Reivich, & Linkins, 2009). In short,
our prevailing education system does not teach our youth how to develop and master the
art of living well.
xi
Pivotal thinkers from distinct epochs and civilizations declared that education can
and should mold the whole human being to achieve her highest potential in all domains
of life – that it should teach character and well-being (Palmer, Bresler, & Cooper, 2001;
Sherman, 1989). These intellectual titans relied on experiential, anecdotal, and
introspective information to make these claims. They did not, however, have the
scientific instruments available today to empirically ask whether the education they
proposed is feasible.
I have dedicated the last five years of my life to experimentally answer two
questions:
1. Can we teach the skills for well-being at a large scale?
2. Does teaching well-being contribute to better academic performance?
After many research journeys across the world, I can confidently and empirically
say that the answer to the above two questions is undeniably affirmative. In the following
pages, I relate my doctoral efforts to experimentally answer these questions. I used the
best available instruments from the sciences that study and promote well-being, including
positive psychology to a significant extent, in field randomized controlled trials. In this
document, my doctoral dissertation, I report my findings from Bhutan, Mexico, and Peru.
I conclude my doctoral studies convinced that a new education paradigm in which
we teach well-being in parallel to academic performance is both desirable and feasible,
regardless of social, economic, or cultural context. This education model can and should
guide local, national, and international education public policy. I will dedicate the rest of
my life to promote this new paradigm and help sow the seeds for the world to which
humanity can aspire.
xii
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
April, 2016
1
Teaching Well-being Increases Academic Performance: Evidence from Bhutan, Mexico, and Peru
Introduction
Embedded in the concept of education is the notion of changing individuals in a
particular direction, of taking them from their current state to, ideally, a better one. That
direction is informed by how we measure success in an educational setting. If schools
measure only academic performance, as they traditionally have, then effective schools
will, at best, produce students who learn how to excel academically and perform well on
standardized tests. However, if schools choose to measure multifaceted well-being as
well, and hence also teach skills for well-being, they can also enable their students to lead
flourishing lives.
The existing literature has empirically demonstrated that the skills and knowledge
to succeed academically can be reliably taught (Rivkin, Hanushek, & Kain, 2005; Credé
& Kunce, 2008). Further, the most prevalent pedagogical paradigm posits that the
objective of education is to teach students to succeed academically and it proposes that
teaching well-being might divert valuable resources from academic subjects and interfere
with students’ learning (Spence & Shortt, 2007). Schools and standardized exams around
the world are currently structured around this pedagogical paradigm.
Humans, however, strive for well-being beyond academic and professional
success (Seligman, 2011). Schools do not teach the skills and knowledge for more
positive emotions, better relationships, more engagement, and more purpose and meaning
in life. Individual well-being is widely considered to be a private matter, especially if
teaching the skills for it consumes scarce educational resources and undermines academic
learning.
2
It is fair to argue that opportunities for the health, safety, educational progress,
and the moral development of youth are almost universally desired (Cohen, 2006; Land,
Lamb, & Mustillo, 2001; Martens & Witt, 2004). Peterson (2006) contended that schools
are uniquely conducive to these opportunities; he called for schools to expand their focus
beyond academic learning to also include the promotion of character and well-being.
Existing data prior to the results we present show that, under specific controlled
conditions and at a small scale, the skills for well-being are learnable and that well-being
and academic achievement are not mutually exclusive; rather, they are mutually
reinforcing (Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011; Greenberg et al.,
2003; Seligman et al., 2009). Before the studies that we present, it is not possible to
empirically assert that well-being is teachable at a large scale and that it contributes to
better academic learning.
What is Youth Well-being?
A missing element to existing models of well-being, primarily based on adult
research, is the obvious precursor – the well-being and functioning of youth. The
literature on developmental psychology has mostly focused on child and adolescent
psychopathology, with limited attention on youth well-being. Adolescence is a
particularly significant developmental and malleable period in life (Steinberg & Morris,
2001). The thriving of adolescents is often evaluated by academic performance and little
else.
In adults, well-being is best characterized as a profile of indicators across multiple
domains, rather than as a single factor (Forgeard, Jayawickreme, Kern, & Seligman,
2011; Keyes, 2007; Lerner, Phelps, Forman, & Bowers, 2009; Organization for
3
Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD], 2012; Ryff & Keyes, 1995). There are
both theoretical and practical reasons for approaching well-being as a multidimensional
construct across valued life domains (Huppert & So, 2013). On the theoretical side, well-
being is an abstract construct that includes both feeling good (hedonic well-being) and
functioning well (eudaemonic well-being; Huppert, 2014). Well-being is not best defined
by a single measure; rather, it is comprised of various domains that can be reliably and
usefully measured (Seligman, 2011).
Existing models offer different well-being domains. For instance, Seligman’s
(2011) Well-being Theory delineates five domains of life that people pursue as ends in
themselves: positive emotion, engagement or flow, positive relationships, meaning or
purpose, and achievement, or PERMA. Ryff (1995) suggests six components of well-
being: self-acceptance, positive relationships with others, autonomy, environmental
mastery, purpose in life, and personal growth. At the societal level, Gallup has created the
Healthways Well-being Index that includes life evaluation, emotional health, physical
health, healthy behaviors, work environment, and access to basic needs (Kahneman &
Deaton, 2010). The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
has created the Your Better Life Index, comprised of 11 topics considered essential to
quality of life (housing, income, jobs, community, education, environment, governance,
health, life satisfaction, safety, work-life balance). The index allows countries and
individuals to identify the domains that are most important to them (Kerényi, 2011).
One of the advantages of a “dashboard” (multidimensional) approach to well-
being is that individual domains may differentially contribute to outcomes of interest. For
example, a review of positive psychological well-being and cardiovascular outcomes
4
found that optimism reliably predicted lower risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality,
but findings were mixed for other aspects of well-being (Boehm & Kubzansky, 2012).
Similarly, Diener and Chan (2011) noted that studies are needed to “determine how the
concepts are related to one another, and their independent ability to predict health
outcomes beyond a general [subjective well-being] factor score” (p. 27). Positive
constructs are often highly correlated with one another, yet it is most productive and
scientifically responsible to study them independently (Friedman & Kern, 2014). Only by
simultaneously considering multiple domains and taking into account factor inter-
correlations can we see which factors, and what mechanisms, drive different outcomes.
Adolescent well-being researchers have proposed five factors of youth well-being
that are somewhat analogous to the five domains of Seligman’s (2011) Well-being
Theory: engagement (absorption and focus on what one is doing and interested in life
activities), perseverance (pursuing goals to completion, despite setbacks), optimism
(hopefulness and confidence for the future), connectedness (satisfying relationships with
others, feeling loved, and providing friendship to others), and happiness (positive affect),
or EPOCH (Kern, Waters, Adler, & White, 2015). The EPOCH factors mirror PERMA’s
five-factor structure, with domains for meaning and accomplishment being represented
by optimism and perseverance, respectively (Kern, Waters, Adler, & White, 2014). The
EPOCH measure of adolescent well-being has been internationally validated in various
cross-cultural populations (Kern, Benson, Steinberg, & Steinberg, 2015).
Can We Measure Youth Well-being?
5
Corresponding to unidimensional and multidimensional models of well-being,
validated corresponding measures of well-being exist. Below, we present a constellation
of the most widely used survey instruments for youth well-being.
The Positive and Negative Affect Schedule for Children (PANAS-C; Laurent et
al., 1999) assesses 15 positive and 15 negative emotions felt over the past month. Positive
emotions include joy, excitement, and interest; negative emotions include sadness, stress,
and fear. The Satisfaction with Life Scale (adapted for children) measures individuals’
assessment of their lives as a whole (α = .86; Gadermann, Schonert-Reichl, & Zumbo,
2010). The Children’s Hope Scale (Snyder et al., 1997) assesses agency and pathways of
hope (e.g., “I think the things I have done in the past will help me in the future”, 6 items,
α = .84). The Gratitude Questionnaire (McCullough, Emmons, & Tsang, 2002) assesses
stable tendencies to experience gratitude in daily life (e.g., “I have so much in life to be
thankful for”, 6 items, α = .71). The Growth Mindset scale (Dweck, 2006) assesses the
extent to which individuals believe their mindsets are fixed versus open to growth and
experience (e.g., “No matter how much intelligence you have, you can always change it
quite a bit”, 6 items, α = .85).
The Healthy Pathways Child Report Scales (Bevans, Riley, & Forrest, 2010) are
unidimensional scales that assess aspects of health, illness, and well-being in clinical and
population-based research studies involving youth in transition from childhood to
adolescence. The instrument measures physical vitality (e.g., “how often do you feel
really healthy?” 4 items, α = .81), somatic symptoms (e.g., “how often do you have a
headache?” 4 items, α = .72), physical activity (e.g., “How often do you play physically
6
active games or sports?” 4 items, α = .84), and school engagement (e.g., “How often
were you interested in the work at school?” 4 items, α = .83).
Unidimensional survey instruments of domains such as life satisfaction are
strongly affected by an individuals’ mood at the time, and they ignore other aspects of
well-being. In fact, multidimensional measures of well-being are only moderately
correlated with life satisfaction (Huppert & So, 2013). Further, reducing measures to a
unidimensional notion obscures potentially valuable multi-faceted information. There are
few validated multidimensional well-being scales for youth. This is one of the most
important gaps in the youth well-being literature, compared to the study of adult well-
being. One of them is the EPOCH Measure of Adolescent Well-being, a 20-item
multidimensional measure of flourishing for youth, which assesses engagement,
perseverance, optimism, connection to others, and happiness (Kern et al., 2015). Just as
multiple components are necessary to define and understand adult well-being, Kern and
colleagues (2015) suggest that a multifaceted approach to adolescent well-being is
necessary. In the three studies that we present, we mainly used the EPOCH instrument to
measure adolescent well-being, since it reflects the best of experimental well-being
science, both in its multidimensionality and in its content.
An advantage of multidimensional well-being metrics is that they can identify
individuals’ specific strengths and weaknesses. In education, overall grade point average
indicates a student’s overall performance, but it obscures individual academic areas in
which students thrive and struggle. Report cards break down grades across subject areas,
signaling weak areas. Similarly, assessments of well-being need to go beyond global
unitary assessments to provide teachers and school counselors with specific information
7
about domains in which students do well, average, or poorly. For example, two
individuals can score similarly on overall well-being, but one scores high on engagement,
moderately on competence, and low on self-esteem, whereas the other scores moderately
on engagement, low on competence, and high on self-esteem. With this dashboard of
information, the two individuals will probably make different decisions based on their
strengths and deficiencies.
Compared to the study of adult well-being, there is significantly less research on
youth well-being theory and measurement. Positive psychology has advanced its mission
of balancing the study of the human brain, mind, and behavior in adults so that both
negative and positive domains are scientifically explored. However, the developmental
psychology literature still remains skewed towards a deficiency model of humans,
focusing on studying psychopathology and on eliminating mental illness and toxic
behaviors. A positive developmental psychology has started to emerge, but there are
substantial theoretical, measurement, and experimental gaps in the literature, compared to
adult positive psychology. Regardless, the theory and measurement of youth well-being
are advanced enough to inform experimental research on youth well-being, including its
causes, its effects, and the mechanisms underlying these relationships. Particularly for the
three studies in this paper, youth well-being theory and measurement were developed
enough to answer empirical questions about student well-being and academic
performance using rigorous experimental methods. Before delving into our three
randomized controlled trials in Bhutan, Mexico, and Peru, we make a case for why the
time is right to experimentally address the paucity of research in this fertile scientific
territory.
8
Positive Education: Putting Well-being on the Global Education Agenda
Drawing on the field of positive psychology, positive education offers a new
educational model that, in parallel to academic learning, emphasizes positive emotions,
character traits, and personalized motivation to promote learning (Seligman et al., 2009).
Positive education focuses on cultivating student, teacher, and administrator well-being in
parallel to teaching academic achievement skills. It recognizes that well-being has both
intrinsic and instrumental value.
The psychological literature offers several compelling empirical arguments for
adopting a positive education model. Existing evidence suggests that youth well-being
contributes to academic achievement, fewer risky adolescent behaviors, and better
physical health during adolescence and adulthood (Caprara, Barbaranelli, Pastorelli,
Bandura, & Zimbardo, 2000; Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011;
Hoyt, Chase-Lansdale, McDade, & Adam, 2012). Further, studies have shown that well-
being is a protective factor against youth depression and that it promotes creativity, social
cohesion, and civic citizenship (Nidich et al., 2011; Seligman et al., 2009; Wang, Haertel,
& Walberg, 1997; Waters, 2011).
Beyond the schooling years, longitudinal analyses have shown that adolescent
well-being predicts life-outcomes in adulthood, including physical health, marriage
strength, delinquency, gang membership, risky sex, drug abuse, and obesity (Bogg &
Roberts, 2004; Hamre & Pianta, 2001; Howell, Kern, & Lyubomirsky, 2007; Hoyt,
Chase-Lansdale, McDade, & Adam, 2012; Kern & Friedman, 2008; Lyubomirsky, King,
& Diener, 2005; Pressman & Cohen, 2005; Roberts, Kuncel, Shiner, Caspi, & Goldberg,
2007; Shernoff, Csikszentmihalyi, Schneider, & Shernoff, 2003; Tsukayama et al., 2010).
9
Beyond cross sectional and longitudinal studies on well-being and its correlates, it is
important to explore which domains of well-being are changeable and how to best change
them, as well as other domains of life to which they contribute.
Existing Well-being Interventions in Schools
Previous studies have even shown that without whole-school cultural and
pedagogical shifts, well-being interventions are often ineffective and at times interfere
with learning (Spence & Shortt, 2007). Well-being interventions in schools are most
effective when they are not limited to one classroom, but rather when they permeate all
facets of an educational institution: students, teachers, staff, leadership, existing academic
subjects, and extra-curricular activities. Institutional shifts provide the most enabling
conditions for well-being interventions and for the downstream effects of well-being,
which might include increased academic performance.
A starting point for building a supportive, respectful, and connected school culture is
to help a school community clarify and reach agreement about the values that guide a
school’s practices. If a school articulates well-being through its vision statement, policies,
structures, and teaching practices, then these values form a compass that guides how
individual in the school community interact and communicate, and it informs the choices
they make. The results from a longitudinal study that tracked high school students over fifty
years into late adulthood suggests that learning to act in accord with prosocial values may
contribute to sustained well-being. The students in the study were interviewed every ten
years, and the results showed that adolescents who lived in accordance with prosocial values
became both psychologically and physically healthier adults (Wink & Dillon, 2003).
10
As a public policy case study, the Australian Government has recognized the critical
importance of a whole-school approach to well-being in its Values Education Project, which
involved 166 schools and 70,000 students. Longitudinal data on the project showed that even
though involving whole-schools was resource intensive, there were deeper commitments to
the program, better results, and longer continuity using a whole-school approach, compared
to similar prior programs that did not use a whole-school approach (Lovat & Toomey, 2009).
However, none of the studies in the Values Education Project used experimental
methodologies.
There is increasing evidence on the effectiveness of interventions exclusively
targeting well-being; among them is the Penn Resiliency Program (PRP). Its curriculum
seeks to teach students several skills, including optimism, creativity, relaxation, decision
making, assertiveness, problem solving, and coping skills. During the past two decades,
close to 20 studies involving more than 2,000 children have evaluated the impact of the
PRP compared to control groups (Seligman, et al., 2009). The data have found the PRP to
reduce symptoms of depression, reduce behavioral problems, work equally well for
children of different races and ethnicities, and be most effective with adequate training
and supervision (Brunwasser & Gillham, 2008; Gillham, Brunwasser, & Freres, 2007;
Seligman, et al., 2009).
Resistance to teaching well-being in schools comes mostly from a reasonable belief
that teaching well-being might interfere with academic learning. Thus, in our studies, we
explored not only how to increase well-being as an end in itself, but also the effects of well-
being on academic performance and other life outcomes.
11
Youth Well-being and Achievement
Many are rightly skeptical about incorporating well-being to schools’ curricula
due to limited rigorous experimental evidence on the effects of well-being on academic
achievement. During the last few decades, most research on the impact of well-being on
academic achievement has focused on the detrimental effects of mental illnesses. Meta-
analyses show that mental illness contributes to lower grades, higher absenteeism, lower
self-control, and higher dropout rates (Hinshaw, 1992; McLeod & Fettes, 2007). Even
though research on youth well-being and academic achievement increasingly suggests
that individual flourishing contributes to enhanced educational performance, there is a
surprising paucity of rigorous experimental data. Before the three studies in this paper,
the existing data could not causally establish that teaching well-being increases academic
performance.
Studies on subjective well-being have shown that negative emotions may
contribute to restricted attention and that positive affect is associated with more creative
thinking, more holistic thinking, and broader attention (Bolte, Goschke & Kuhl, 2003;
Estrada, Isen, & Young, 1994; Fredrickson, 1998; Fredrickson & Branigan, 2005; Isen,
Daubman, & Nowicki, 1987; Isen, Rosenzweig, & Young, 1991; Kuhl, 1983, 2000;
Rowe, Hirsh, Anderson, & Smith, 2007). A recent one-year longitudinal study with
American middle school students found that even though anxiety and depression
predicted school absenteeism, they did not predict students’ grades. In the same study,
students’ subjective well-being (positive affect and life satisfaction) predicted better
grades, particularly in math and reading (Suldo, Thalji, & Ferron, 2011).
Positive school relationships seem to contribute to academic achievement. A meta-
12
analysis of 148 studies involving 17,000 students conducted in 11 countries found that
positive peer relationships explained 33-40% of the variance in academic achievement
(Roseth, Johnson & Johnson, 2008). Studies show that students’ social competence and the
quality of their friendship networks are predictive of academic achievement (Caprara et al.,
2000; Wentzel & Caldwell, 1997). Research has also suggested that the quality of teacher–
student relationships influences student learning outcomes (Cornelius-White, 2007; Hattie,
2009). Other data suggest that children with positive teacher–student relationships get better
grades, have more positive attitudes toward school, are more engaged in the learning that
occurs in the classroom, and are less likely to repeat a grade (Birch & Ladd, 1997; Hamre &
Pianta, 2001). Students who believe that their teachers care about them are more motivated to
try hard, to pay attention in class, and to do well; they are more likely to perform well and
stay in school rather than drop out (Benard, 2004; Pianta, 1999; Sztejnberg, den Brok, &
Hurek., 2004; Wentzel 1997).
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is a growing educational field which teaches
students skills that enable them to better identify their goals, manage their emotions,
enhance their personal relationships, and increase school performance (Greenberg et al.,
2003). Examples of these skills include emotional recognition, emotional management,
effective communication, decision making, goal setting, empathy, and problem solving
(Payton et al., 2008). Although SEL programs have prematurely started to permeate
thousands of schools in dozens of countries, the methodologies to assess these programs
have not used rigorous experimental designs.
Using existing longitudinal data, a meta-analysis of SEL programs in 213 schools
with over 200,000 students showed that the programs have had significant effects on
13
different student outcomes. On average, students’ grades increased by 11 percent,
prosocial behaviors increased by 9 percent, adolescent depression and anxiety decreased
by 9 percent, and behavioral issues decreased by 9 percent (Payton et al., 2008). Even
though, given the large sample sizes in these studies, these effects were all significant, it
is difficult to assess the causal effects of SEL programs, since these studies were not
controlled experiments. Furthermore, they were missing some key data (e.g., standard
deviations of outcome variables) to convert the reported percentage changes to actual
effect sizes (Cohen’s d) and be able to assess whether the increases in academic
performance are relatively small, medium, or large.
Establishing Causality between Well-being and Academic Performance
Prior to the three studies we present, the causal relationship between well-being
and academic achievement had yet to be adequately examined and established. To our
knowledge, no large-scale randomized experimental designs had established
experimental causality between different domains of youth well-being and academic
performance. Other methods have approximated causality. Using hierarchical linear
modeling of longitudinal data, personality researchers have suggested a causal
relationship between self-control and academic achievement (Duckworth, Tsukayama, &
May, 2010). Even though these statistical methods have allowed researchers to get closer
to causality than previous longitudinal analyses, the study from where the data emerged
did not have a control condition – participants were not randomly assigned to a treatment
or a control condition, since personality is not easily manipulated; rather, each subject
statistically serves as her own control using time-varying covariates. We claim that data
14
from controlled experimental designs can better establish causal relationships than
hierarchical linear modeling of longitudinal quasi-experimental data.
Our randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in Bhutan, Mexico, and Peru were
driven by the paucity of research on the causal relationship between well-being and
academic performance. This is a surprising research gap in the fields of development
psychology and positive psychology. Secondly, our studies empirically answered a
perennial question: is teaching well-being in schools at a large scale not only desirable
but also feasible? In the following three studies, we taught well-being skills on a large
scale to school adolescents in Bhutan, Mexico, and Peru to experimentally answer the
latter millennial question and to fill an important research gap in the adolescent positive
development literature.
Study 1: Education for Gross National Happiness in Bhutan
As mentioned before, interventions with the goal of increasing youth well-being
in schools are likely more effective when they are not limited to one classroom, but rather
when they permeate all facets of an educational institution – students, teachers, staff,
leadership, existing academic subjects, and extra-curricular activities (Weare, 2000).
Bhutan provided such an enabling setting.
Bhutan is a small Himalayan country with fewer than one million inhabitants, and
it uses Gross National Happiness (GNH) rather than Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to
assess national progress and to drive public policy (Ura & K. Galay, 2004). The GNH
index includes nine domains of progress: health, time use, education, cultural resilience,
living standards, ecological diversity, good governance, community vitality, and
15
psychological well-being. In line with this, Bhutan has organized its education system
around the principles of GNH; the Bhutanese Ministry of Education’s explicit mission is
to “Educate for Gross National Happiness.”
The GNH Curriculum Experiment.
The Bhutanese Ministry of Education invited us to co-develop a GNH Curriculum
that targets ten non-academic “life skills” for secondary school students (grades 7 through
12):
1. Mindfulness: calm awareness of thoughts, emotions, and surroundings
2. Empathy: identifying what other individuals are feeling or thinking
3. Self-awareness: understanding of personal talents, strengths, limitations, and goals
4. Coping with emotions: identifying, understanding, and managing emotions
5. Communication: being active and constructive in inter-personal communication
6. Interpersonal relationships: fostering healthy interactions with friends and family
7. Creative thinking: developing ideas that are novel and useful
8. Critical thinking: conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating
information as a guide to beliefs and actions
9. Decision making: choosing the best beliefs or action plans from available options
10. Problem solving: accessing effective heuristics to solve theoretical and practical problems
The curriculum teaches these skills in a 15-month stand-alone course called Life
Skills Training. The curriculum also infuses these skills into existing academic subjects.
We tested two hypotheses: (1) Does the GNH Curriculum increase well-being? and, (2)
Does increasing well-being improve academic performance?
Methods
16
The study included 18 public secondary schools in three representative
dzongkhags (districts) in Bhutan: Thimphu, Punakha, and Wangdue Phodrang. 95% of
Bhutanese students attend public schools and the language of instruction in Bhutan is
English.
The study used a nested cluster randomized design at the whole-school level in 18
Bhutanese secondary schools (8,385 students). We randomly assigned the schools to
either the treatment group, which received the GNH Curriculum during 15 months, or to
the control group, which received a placebo GNH Curriculum during the same 15
months. We included a placebo Curriculum for the control group to control for demand
artifacts in our results, such as the Hawthorne Effect or the Pygmalion Effect, which have
been reliably documented in the literature of longitudinal studies in education and other
fields (Adair, 1984; Parsons, 1974; Rosenthal & Jacobson, 1968; Rosenthal 1973). 11
schools (n=5,247 students) were in the treatment group, and 7 schools (n=3,138) were in
the control group. The mean student age was 15.1 years old (SD 2.2, min 10, max 24).
54% of students were female.
This was a single blind study – students, teachers, and school staff were unaware
of whether they were part of the treatment or control group. Throughout the intervention,
only two researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and nine staff members from
Bhutan’s Ministry of Education were aware of which school was in which group.
The principals and teachers from both groups of schools were told that they were
being trained to teach the GNH Curriculum and that they would be delivering a 15-month
Life Skills Course aimed at increasing student well-being. A “Director of GNH” with
17
training in education was recruited and trained for each school; these Directors were also
blind and did not know in which group their school was. The Director of GNH ensured
that the curriculum was faithfully implemented throughout the 15-month intervention.
The students in both groups of schools received the same number of classroom hours
during the real 15-month Life Skills Course and the placebo 15-month Life Skills Course:
two hours per week.
All principals and teachers from the 11 treatment schools received training during
a 10-day GNH Curriculum retreat. The trainers were psychologists from the University of
Pennsylvania and nine trained staff members from Bhutan’s Ministry of Education; a
training manual (Educating for GNH) was used. The trainers taught principals and
teachers how to practice and how to teach the ten life skills (see Supplementary Materials
for sample excerpts of curricula). Teachers were also trained to infuse their academic
subjects (e.g., math, science, reading) with the ten life skills. Literature, for instance, was
taught through a “GNH lens” by identifying strengths and virtues in characters from
novels and by encouraging students to use these strengths in their daily lives. Further, all
students in the intervention group participated in botany practices in organic gardens in
every one of the 11 school campuses. They learned to plant, grow, and harvest vegetables
and other foods. By studying the plants’ physiology, genetics, ecology, classification,
structure, and economic importance, students learned how to interactively apply what
they were learning in their biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics classes to their
botanic practices. Furthermore, through the complex process of growing different plants
with their fellow students and understanding the role of food in the larger local and
18
national economic system, students learned to practice critical thinking, creative thinking,
decision making, and problem solving skills.
In the classroom, teachers learned how to give students verbal and written
feedback in a way that empowered and motivated them to enhance the quality of their
work. Teachers learned the importance of identifying and noting what students were
doing right in their classwork, instead of only highlighting what they were doing wrong,
which is typical of pedagogical practices in most secondary schools. The 11 schools in
the treatment group implemented the GNH Curriculum from June 2012 to August 2013.
The principals and teachers from the 7 schools in the control group received
training during a four-day placebo GNH Curriculum retreat during which they learned
about how to teach nutrition, psychology, and human anatomy. The trainers in this retreat
were the same as the trainers in the GNH Curriculum retreat for the treatment group. The
7 schools in the control group implemented the placebo GNH Curriculum from June
2012 to August 2013. The placebo curriculum covered the principles of nutrition,
psychology, and human anatomy as part of a 15-month Life Skills Course that was taught
to all students at each of these 7 schools.
Data Collection
We determined the number of schools and students to be included in the study by
doing a two-level cluster power analysis before data collection. We decided to collect
data from all students in the 18 secondary schools to maximize our statistical power.
Using a significance cut-off of p<0.05, our power analysis revealed that 18 schools and
6,000 students nested within the schools would allow us to detect the effects of our
19
intervention on well-being or academic achievement if the effect sizes were as low as
0.20 standard deviations (a small effect size).
The student well-being survey used the validated EPOCH measure of adolescent
well-being. The instrument’s 20 items reliably assess engagement, perseverance,
optimism, connectedness, and happiness, or EPOCH (Kern et al., 2015). In the EPOCH
measure of well-being, Cronbach’s α varies from α = .75 for engagement to α = .86 for
happiness. The survey also included an overall measure of life satisfaction, the 5-item
adolescent Satisfaction with Life Scale (α = .86; Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin,
1985; Gadermann, Schonert-Reichl, & Zumbo, 2010). The survey also included questions
about age, gender, hometown, and social media use.
We collected baseline well-being data from all students in the 18 secondary
schools (n=8,385) during May 2012, the month before introducing the GNH Curriculum.
We collected well-being data again at the end of the intervention, in September 2013
(n=7,363, participation rate = 99%). Students in grade 7 did not complete surveys in
September 2013, since they were in primary school during baseline data collection. We
collected well-being data a third time in September 2014, 12 months after the end of the
intervention (n=6,524, participation rate = 99%). Students in grades 7 and 8 did not
complete surveys in September 2014, since they were in primary school during baseline
collection. Only data from students who completed all three rounds of data collection
were included in this study (n=6,524).
In addition to self-reported well-being measures, we had access to participating
students’ performance on annual standardized exams (the National Education Assessment
20
or NEA) from September 2011 (pre-intervention), September 2013 (immediately post-
intervention), and September 2014 (12 months after the end of the intervention). The
NEA assesses students on math, science, and reading and is administered annually in
September by the Ministry of Education to all students in both primary and secondary
public schools in Bhutan. The NEA was created in 2003 in collaboration with the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The NEA contains
adapted versions of the items that the OECD uses in its Program for International Student
Assessment (PISA) so that they are culturally sensitive and relevant to students’ grade
level (Ray & Margaret, 2003). PISA has become a global gold-standard to assess how
countries rank in terms of their students’ academic performance. The NEA has been
tested in conjunction with the OECD for validity and reliability (Maxwell, Rinchen, &
Cooksey, 2010).
One of our team members visited each of the 18 schools at least once per month
and took extended notes on how the actual GNH Curriculum or placebo GNH
Curriculum were being implemented. After the end of the intervention, we created a
program evaluation checklist to measure treatment fidelity in the five domains that best
practices dictate for longitudinal outcome studies: study design, training, delivery,
receipt, and enactment (Moncher & Prinz, 1991; Smith, Daunic, & Taylor, 2007). We
translated our qualitative notes into quantitative fidelity treatment data using this
methodology retroactively (checklist in supplemental materials).
Following the University of Pennsylvania’s Institutional Review Board (IRB)
regulations for underage participants (“vulnerable populations”) and sensitive data, all
well-being and academic performance data were stored in secure hard drives housed at
21
the Ministry of Education in Bhutan. Furthermore, all students in the study were assigned
unique identifying numbers. Only two staff members from the Bhutanese Ministry of
Education had access to both student names and their unique identifiers, so data were de-
identified to researchers from the University of Pennsylvania. Throughout the study,
University of Pennsylvania researchers remotely accessed all raw data through a secure
server for data analyses.
Results
The GNH Curriculum significantly increased student well-being. As illustrated in
Figure 1, longitudinal school-level analyses of survey data from May 2012 and
September 2013 indicate that the GNH Curriculum significantly increased adolescent
well-being (as measured by the EPOCH scale) in treatment schools, compared to control
schools (Cohen’s d = 0.59, t(16) = 3.54, P=0.002). Intra-class correlation for students
nested within schools was 0.13. The difference in adolescent well-being between schools
in the control condition and the treatment condition before the GNH Curriculum
intervention was not significant (d = 0.01, t(16) = 0.17, P>0.250). Furthermore, survey
data from September 2014 (12 months after the end of the intervention) show that there
was no significant decrease in well-being in treatment schools one year after the
intervention ended (d = 0.05, t(16) = 0.29, P>0.250). The difference between treatment
schools and control schools remained significant (d = 0.54, t(16) = 3.41, P=0.004).
22
Figure 1
The GNH Curriculum significantly increased adolescent well-being in treatment schools, compared to
control schools. In treatment schools, the mean EPOCH score before the intervention was 3.51 (SD 0.56,
min 1, max 4.95), the mean EPOCH score after the intervention was 3.86 (SD 0.58, min 1, max 5), and the
mean EPOCH score 12 months after the end of the intervention intervention was 3.83 (SD 0.57, min 1, max
5). In control schools, the mean EPOCH score before the intervention was 3.50 (SD 0.59, min 1, max 5),
the mean EPOCH score after the intervention was 3.52 (SD 0.60, min 1, max 5), and the mean EPOCH
score 12 months after the end of the intervention intervention was 3.54 (SD 0.60, min 1, max 5).
The GNH Curriculum substantially and significantly increased academic
performance. As illustrated in Figure 2, longitudinal school-level analyses of
standardized test scores from September 2011 and September 2013 showed that the GNH
Curriculum increased academic achievement significantly in treatment schools, compared
to control schools (Cohen’s d = 0.53, t(16) = 2.37, P=0.031). Intra-class correlation for
students nested within schools was 0.09. The difference in standardized test scores
between schools in the control condition and the treatment condition before the GNH
Curriculum intervention was not significant (d = 0.06, t(16) = 0.14, P>0.250).
23
Furthermore, standardized exam data from September 2014 (12 months after the end of
the intervention) show that there was no significant decrease in students’ performance in
treatment schools one year after the intervention ended (d = 0.12, t(16) = 0.41, P>0.250).
The difference between treatment schools and control schools remained significant (d =
0.48, t(16) = 2.24, P<0.040).
24
Figure 2
The GNH Curriculum significantly increased academic performance. In treatment schools, the mean exam
score during September 2011 (before the intervention) was 76.1 (SD 9.25, min 15, max 100), the mean
exam score during September 2013 (after the intervention) was 80.6 (SD 9.41, min 18, max 100), and the
mean exam score during September 2014 (12 months after the end of the intervention) was 80.0 (SD 9.43,
min 16, max 100). In control schools, the mean exam score during September 2011 was 76.0 (SD 9.65, min
14, max 100), the mean exam score during September 2013 was 76.1 (SD 9.63, min 12, max 100), and the
mean exam score during September 2014 was 76.1 (SD 9.62, min 17, max 100).
An upward shift of 0.53 standard deviations (SDs) in standardized exam
performance means that, on average, students who were performing at the 50th percentile
before the intervention performed at the level of students in the 60th percentile after the
15-month intervention. That is roughly equivalent to a gain of a full academic year.
Multivariate stepwise linear modeling of academic achievement at time t1, using
academic achievement at time t0 and different dimensions of well-being as predictors,
revealed three well-being factors as the strongest predictors of increased performance on
standardized test scores, controlling for academic performance at time t0: more
*"p"<"0.05"
Cohen's"d"="
0.53
""
n"="6,524
ns
*
*"p"<"0.05
Cohen's"d"="0.53
"
n"="6,524
*
*
25
engagement, more perseverance, and higher connectedness (all as measured by the
EPOCH survey instrument).
Academic performance at time t0 accounts for 0.58 of the variance in academic
performance at time t1 for students in the intervention group. Of the remaining variance
of 0.42, 0.063 is explained by changes in student engagement from time t0 to time t1
(controlling for the other four factors of EPOCH), which corresponds to 15.1% of the
remaining variance. We controlled for the other four factors in the EPOCH measure by
including them in a second stepwise linear model, and then adding only the change in
engagement factor in the third stepwise linear model. For clarity purposes, in the Tables
beyond Table 1, we eliminated the second step with four EPOCH factors, and instead
included only the variance in academic performance that the change in a fifth factor alone
(e.g., perseverance, connectedness) contributed to changes in academic performance
between t0 and t1.
26
Table 1
From a three-step to a two-step stepwise linear regression model
Model Summary (dependent variable: Academic performance t1)
Model
R
R Square
Adjusted R
Square
Std. Error of
the Estimate
R Square
Change
Sig. F
Change
1
.76a
.58
.58
2.59
.58
.000
2
3
.83b
87c
.69
.75
.68
.74
2.45
2.42
.11
.063
.000
.000
a."Predictors:"(Constant),"Academic"performance"t0"
b."Predictors:"(Constant),"Academic"performance"t0,"delta_epoch"(minus"engagement)"
c."Predictors:"(Constant),"Academic"performance"t0,"delta_engagement"
"
Model Summary (dependent variable: Academic performance t1)
Model
R
R Square
Adjusted R
Square
Std. Error of
the Estimate
R Square
Change
Sig. F
Change
1
.76a
.58
.58
2.59
.58
.000
2
.80b
.65
.64
2.45
.063
.000
a."Predictors:"(Constant),"Academic"performance"t0"
b."Predictors:"(Constant),"Academic"performance"t0,"delta_engagement"
Academic performance at time t0 accounts for 0.58 of the variance in academic performance at time t1 for
students in the intervention group. Of the remaining 0.42 of the variance, 0.063 is explained by changes in
student engagement from time t0 to time t1 (controlling for the other four factors of EPOCH, as shown in
the first of two tables above), which corresponds to 15.1% of the remaining variance. These two models are
statistically significant (p<0.0001).
Of the remaining variance of 0.42 not explained by academic performance at time
t0, 0.075 is explained by changes in student perseverance from time t0 to time t1
(controlling for the other four factors of EPOCH), which corresponds to 18.0% of the
remaining variance.
27
Table 2
Model Summary (dependent variable: Academic performance t1)
Model
R
R Square
Adjusted R
Square
Std. Error of
the Estimate
R Square
Change
Sig. F
Change
1
.76a
.58
.58
2.59
.58
.000
2
.81b
.66
.65
2.42
.075
.000
a."Predictors:"(Constant),"Academic"performance"t0"
b."Predictors:"(Constant),"Academic"performance"t0,"delta_perseverance"
"
Academic performance at time t0 accounts for 0.58 of the variance in academic performance at time t1 for
students in the intervention group. Of the remaining 0.42 of the variance, 0.075 is explained by changes in
student perseverance from time t0 to time t1 (controlling for the other four factors of EPOCH), which
corresponds to 18.0% of the remaining variance. These two models are statistically significant (p<0.0001).
0.068 of the remaining 0.42 variance is explained by changes in student
connectedness from time t0 to time t1 (controlling for the other four factors of EPOCH),
which corresponds to 16.3% of the remaining variance.
Table 3
Model Summary (dependent variable: Academic performance t1)
Model
R
R Square
Adjusted R
Square
Std. Error of
the Estimate
R Square
Change
Sig. F
Change
1
.764a
.584
.579
2.5916
.584
.000
2
.807b
.652
.648
2.4394
.068
.000
a."Predictors:"(Constant),"Academic"performance"t0"
b."Predictors:"(Constant),"Academic"performance"t0,"delta_connectedness"
"
Academic performance at time t0 accounts for 0.58 of the variance in academic performance at time t1 for
students in the intervention group. Of the remaining 0.42 of the variance, 0.068 is explained by changes in
student connectedness from time t0 to time t1 (controlling for the other four factors of EPOCH), which
corresponds to 16.3% of the remaining variance. These two models are statistically significant (p<0.0001).
Changes in optimism and happiness accounted for marginal amounts of the
remaining variance in academic achievement at time t1 (2% and 3%, correspondingly).
Our retrospective treatment fidelity analyses indicated that, throughout the 15-
month intervention period, there was 87% treatment fidelity in the 11 schools that
received the GNH Curriculum and 74% treatment fidelity in the 7 control schools that
28
received the placebo GNH Curriculum. An 87% treatment fidelity means that when we
retrospectively completed, the treatment fidelity 5-item checklists for the treatment
schools, in aggregate, 87% of the total boxes were checked off (5 boxes per school visit –
see Supplementary Materials for details). Analogously, a 74% treatment fidelity means
that we retroactively checked off 74% of the boxes in the checklist for the control schools
when we compared teachers’, trainers’, and researchers’ notes against the 5-item
checklist. Both of these are acceptable treatment fidelity rates, according to best practices
in longitudinal outcome studies related to physical and psychological health (Song, Happ,
& Sandelowski, 2010).
Our RCT revealed the sustained effect of the GNH Curriculum on both well-being
and on academic performance. Following our field experiment’s positive results,
Bhutan’s Ministry of Education has decided to take the program to a national scale and is
currently on a path to implement the curriculum in every public secondary school in the
country.
Study 2: Educación para el Bienestar in Jalisco, Mexico
Jalisco is one of 32 states in Mexico. It has a population of about eight million
people, and it has a relatively high level of economic development, compared to other
states in Mexico. Since campaigning for public office in 2012, the current governor of
Jalisco, Aristoteles Sandoval, declared it his mandate to make the state of Jalisco
Mexico’s first state of well-being (bienestar). Since starting his tenure as Governor on
March 1st, 2013, Governor Sandoval has initiated a constellation of public policies to
promote well-being. Together with health and infrastructure, education has been one of
29
three foci for his government’s budget allocation in policy design and implementation
(Reyes-Robles & Gómez-Hernández, 2013).
Under the jurisdiction of Jalisco’s Ministry of Education is the Colegio de
Estudios Científicos y Tecnológicos del Estado de Jalisco (CECYTEJ), or College of
Science and Technology Studies of the State of Jalisco. CECYTEJ consists of 70 public
secondary schools with a particular focus on science and technology. We partnered with
Jalisco’s Ministry of Education to conduct a Positive Education RCT with CECYTEJ’s
70 schools, and pending a positive impact evaluation, the Ministry of Education would
take the program to a state-wide scale.
Educación para el Bienestar Program
After a number of structured focus groups with CECYTEJ principals, teachers,
students, and parents, we found that the program name that was most contextually and
culturally relevant was Educación para el Bienestar, or Education for Well-being. The
curriculum for this program, the Currículum de Bienestar, or Well-being Curriculum, had
analogous focus areas to the GNH Curriculum in Bhutan:
1. presencia plena (full presence)
2. autoconocimiento (self-knowledge)
3. comprensión y manejo de emociones (emotional comprehension and management)
4. empatía y altruism (empathy and altruism)
5. ejercicio físico (physical exercise)
6. resiliencia (resilience)
7. pensamiento crítico (critical thinking)
8. toma de decisions (decision-making)
9. comunicación (communication)
10. pensamiento creativo (creative thinking)
30
Even though the life skills that we taught during the RCT were analogous to those
in the GNH Curriculum in Bhutan, the content and structure of the curriculum was fully
adapted so that it resonated with the context and culture of local principals, teachers, and
students. The Currículum de Bienestar was co-developed with local principals and
teachers from non-CECYTEJ schools (to ensure a single-blind study) as well as with staff
trained in curricular design from Jalisco’s Ministry of Education.
Methods
The study included all 70 CECYTEJ upper-secondary schools (grades 10 to 12)
from across the state of Jalisco. The language of instruction in all of these schools is
Spanish.
The study used a nested cluster randomized design at the whole-school level in 70
public secondary schools (68,762 students). We randomly assigned the schools to either
the treatment group, which received the Bienestar Curriculum during 15 months, or to
the control group, which received a placebo Bienestar Curriculum during the same 15
months. 35 schools (m = 35,568 students) were in the treatment group, and 35 schools (m
= 33,194 students) were in the control group. The mean student age was 16.2 years old
(SD 1.1, min 13, max 26). 52% of students were female.
This was a single blind study – students, teachers, principals and school staff were
unaware of whether they were part of the treatment or control group. Throughout the
intervention, only researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and staff members
from Jalisco’s Ministry of Education were aware of which school was in which group.
31
35 trainers with a background in psychology or education received training during
a 10-day Bienestar Curriculum retreat. The trainers who trained local trainers were
psychologists from the University of Pennsylvania and trained staff members from
Jalisco’s Ministry of Education. We used a training manual also named Educación para
el Bienestar. The trainers taught local trainers both how to practice the ten life skills and
how to teach them to principals and teachers. Local trainers were also trained on how to
teach teachers how to infuse their academic subjects (e.g., math, reading, science) with
the ten life skills. Local trainers taught the Bienestar Curriculum to teachers and
principals in the 35 schools in the treatment group during the 2 weeks in August 2014
before the start of the 2014/2015 academic year. Local trainers, principals, and teachers
in the 35 schools in the treatment group implemented the Bienestar Curriculum from
August 2014 to December 2015.
The 35 local trainers for the 35 schools in the control group received training
during a four-day placebo Bienestar Curriculum retreat during which they learned how to
teach nutrition, psychology, and human anatomy to teachers and principals. The trainers
who trained local trainers in this retreat were the same as the trainers who trained local
trainers in the Bienestar Curriculum retreat for the treatment group. Local trainers taught
the placebo Bienestar Curriculum to teachers and principals in the 35 schools in the
control group during one week in August 2014 before the start of the 2014/2015
academic year. Local trainers, teachers, and principals in the 35 schools in the control
group implemented the placebo Bienestar Curriculum from August 2014 to December
2015. The placebo curriculum covered the principles of nutrition, psychology, and human
32
anatomy as part of a 15-month Curso de Habilidades para la Vida, or Life Skills Course
that was taught to all students at each of these 35 schools.
The principals and teachers from both groups of schools were told that they were
being trained by local trainers to teach the Bienestar Curriculum and that they would be
delivering a 15-month Life Skills Course aimed at increasing student well-being. A
Director de Bienestar (Well-being Director) with training in education was recruited and
trained for each school; these Directors were also blind and did not know in which group
their school was. The Directores de Bienestar ensured that the curriculum was faithfully
implemented throughout the 15-month intervention. The students in both groups of
schools received the same number of classroom hours during the real 15-month Life
Skills Course and the placebo 15-month Life Skills Course: two hours per week.
Data Collection
Baseline data collection during August 2014 and post-intervention data collection
during December 2015 for this second study was similar in content to data collection for
Study 1 in Bhutan. However, during August 2014 we did not collect data from students in
grade 12, since they would have graduated by the end of the intervention and we would
not have access to them during post-intervention measurement. We only collected data
from students in grades 10 and 11. In Jalisco, we used the Mexican Spanish-version of
the EPOCH well-being survey. With professional translators, we used the international
gold standard for translation-reverse translation of instruments for cross-cultural research,
the Brislin process, to get a reliable version of the validated EPOCH instrument in the
Spanish used in that region of Mexico (Brislin, 1970). We were also given access to the
33
students’ national standardized test scores from February 2014 (pre-intervention) and
from February 2016 (post-intervention). During the end of 2014, the Evaluación
Nacional de Logro Académico en Centros Escolares (ENLACE) national standardized
exam was renamed the Plan Nacional para la Evaluación de los Aprendizajes
(PLANEA). ENLACE and PLANEA assess secondary school students in the areas of
mathematics and reading comprehension, using internationally recognized best
assessment strategies (Gallardo-Gomez, 2000; Hamodi, López Pastor, & López Pastor,
2015; Sánchez Zúñiga, 2009). The overall student participation rate in data collection was
95%. We had access to students’ scores on the ENLACE standardized exam before the
beginning of the August 2014 intervention and on the PLANEA standardized exam after
December 2015.
Local trainers in Jalisco visited each of the 70 schools at least once per week to
measure treatment fidelity using an adapted evaluation checklist in the five domains that
best practices dictate for longitudinal outcome studies: study design, training, delivery,
receipt, and enactment (Moncher & Prinz, 1991; Smith, Daunic, & Taylor, 2007; Song,
Happ, & Sandelowski, 2010).
Following IRB regulations, all well-being and academic performance data were
stored in secure hard drives housed at the Ministry of Education in Jalisco. Furthermore,
all students in the study were assigned unique identifying numbers. Only two staff
members from Jalisco’s Ministry of Education had access to both student names and their
unique identifiers, so data were de-identified to researchers from the University of
Pennsylvania. Throughout the study, University of Pennsylvania researchers remotely
accessed all raw data through a secure server for data analyses.
34
Results
The Bienestar Curriculum significantly increased student well-being. As
illustrated in Figure 3, longitudinal school-level analyses of survey data from August
2014 and December 2015 indicate that the Bienestar Curriculum significantly increased
adolescent well-being (as measured by the Spanish-version of the EPOCH scale) in
treatment schools, compared to control schools (Cohen’s d = 0.41, t(68) = 3.01,
P<0.001). Intra-class correlation for students nested within schools was 0.16. The
difference in adolescent well-being between schools in the control condition and the
treatment condition before the GNH Curriculum intervention was not significant (d =
0.03, t(68) = 0.32, P>0.250).
35
Figure 3
The Bienestar Curriculum significantly increased adolescent well-being in treatment schools, compared to
control schools. In treatment schools, the mean EPOCH score before the intervention was 3.53 (SD 0.51,
min 1, max 5) and the mean EPOCH score after the intervention was 3.74 (SD 0.53, min 1, max 5). In
control schools, the mean EPOCH score before the intervention was 3.54 (SD 0.56, min 1, max 5) and the
mean EPOCH score after the intervention was 3.56 (SD 0.55, min 1, max 5).
The Bienestar Curriculum substantially and significantly increased academic
performance. As illustrated in Figure 4, longitudinal school-level analyses of
standardized test scores from February 2014 and February 2016 showed that the
Bienestar Curriculum increased academic achievement significantly in treatment schools,
compared to control schools (Cohen’s d = 0.36, t(68) = 2.61, P=0.01). Intra-class
correlation for students nested within schools was 0.12. The difference in standardized
test scores between schools in the control condition and the treatment condition before
the GNH Curriculum intervention was not significant (d = 0.02, t(68) = 0.18, P>0.250).
36
Figure 4
The Bienestar Curriculum significantly increased academic performance. Since the national standardized
exam in Mexico changed from ENLACE before our intervention to PLANEA after our intervention, we
converted all of our participants’ scores into z-scores. In treatment schools, the mean exam score z-score
during February 2014 (before the intervention) was -0.01 (SD 1) and the mean exam z-score score during
February 2016 (after the intervention) was 0.36 (SD 1.02). In control schools, the mean exam z-score score
during February 2014 was 0.00 (SD 1) and the mean exam z-score score during February 2016 was 0.01
(SD 1).
Multivariate stepwise linear modeling of academic achievement at time t1, using
academic achievement at time t0 and different dimensions of well-being as predictors,
revealed three well-being factors as the strongest predictors of increased performance on
standardized test scores, controlling for academic performance at time t0: higher
connectedness, more perseverance, and more engagement (all as measured by the
EPOCH survey instrument). These were the same three factors from Study 1 in Bhutan.
Academic performance at time t0 accounts for 0.64 of the variance in academic
performance at time t1 for students in the intervention group. Of the remaining 0.36
ns
*
*"p"="0.01
Cohen's"d"="0.36
m"="68,762
*"p"="0.01"
Cohen's"d"="0.36"
m"="68,762
37
variance, 0.057 is explained by changes in student engagement from time t0 to time t1
(controlling for the other four factors of EPOCH), which corresponds to 15.8% of the
remaining variance.
Table 4
Model Summary (dependent variable: Academic performance t1)
Model
R
R Square
Adjusted R
Square
Std. Error of
the Estimate
R Square
Change
Sig. F
Change
1
.80a
.64
.64
1.45
.64
.000
2
.84b
.70
.69
1.42
.057
.000
a."Predictors:"(Constant),"Academic"performance"t0"
b."Predictors:"(Constant),"Academic"performance"t0,"delta_engagement"
"
Academic performance at time t0 accounts for 0.64 of the variance in academic performance at time t1 for
students in the intervention group. Of the remaining 0.36 of the variance, 0.057 is explained by changes in
student engagement from time t0 to time t1 (controlling for the other four factors of EPOCH), which
corresponds to 15.8% of the remaining variance. These two models are statistically significant (p<0.0001).
Of the remaining 0.36 variance, 0.073 is explained by changes in student
perseverance from time t0 to time t1 (controlling for the other four factors of EPOCH),
which corresponds to 20.2% of the remaining variance.
Table 5
Model Summary (dependent variable: Academic performance t1)
Model
R
R Square
Adjusted R
Square
Std. Error of
the Estimate
R Square
Change
Sig. F
Change
1
.80a
.64
.64
1.45
.64
.000
2
.85b
.71
.70
1.41
.073
.000
a."Predictors:"(Constant),"Academic"performance"t0"
b."Predictors:"(Constant),"Academic"performance"t0,"delta_perseverance"
"
Academic performance at time t0 accounts for 0.64 of the variance in academic performance at time t1 for
students in the intervention group. Of the remaining 0.36 of the variance, 0.073 is explained by changes in
student perseverance from time t0 to time t1 (controlling for the other four factors of EPOCH), which
corresponds to 20.2% of the remaining variance. These two models are statistically significant (p<0.0001).
38
0.054 of the remaining variance is explained by changes in student connectedness
from time t0 to time t1 (controlling for the other four factors of EPOCH), which
corresponds to 15.0% of the remaining variance.
Table 6"
Model Summary (dependent variable: Academic performance t1)
Model
R
R Square
Adjusted R
Square
Std. Error of
the Estimate
R Square
Change
Sig. F
Change
1
.80a
.64
.64
1.45
.64
.000
2
.83b
.69
.69
1.42
.054
.000
a."Predictors:"(Constant),"Academic"performance"t0"
b."Predictors:"(Constant),"Academic"performance"t0,"delta_connectedness"
"
Academic performance at time t0 accounts for 0.64 of the variance in academic performance at time t1 for
students in the intervention group. Of the remaining 0.36 of the variance, 0.054 is explained by changes in
student connectedness from time t0 to time t1 (controlling for the other four factors of EPOCH), which
corresponds to 15.0% of the remaining variance. These two models are statistically significant (p<0.0001).
Changes in optimism and happiness accounted for marginal amounts of the
remaining variance in academic achievement at time t1 (1.5% and 2.4%,
correspondingly). Tables 4, 5, and 6 show the results of multivariate stepwise linear
modeling.
Our treatment fidelity data indicate that there was 78% treatment fidelity in the 35
schools that received the Bienestar Curriculum and 67% treatment fidelity in the 35
control schools that received the placebo Bienestar Curriculum.
Study 3: Escuelas Amigas in Peru
Peru is a South American country with about 32 million inhabitants.
Socioeconomically and culturally, it is similar to Mexico. During October 2013, the
Peruvian Minister of Education, Jaime Saavedra, expressed interest in incorporating skills
39
for well-being into the country’s national education curriculum. As a quantitative
economist with a focus on experimental impact evaluations of public policy for social
well-being and on asset-based approaches to poverty reduction (Attanasio et al, 2001;
Ñopo, Saavedra-Chanduví, & Robles, 2007), Dr. Saavedra directed the Ministry’s team
to run a large-scale pilot RCT in the country before implementing a well-being
curriculum at a national scale.
In November 2013, we were invited to partner with the Peruvian Ministry of
Education and the World Bank to run the largest education RCT in the region’s history.
Minister Saavedra’s goal was to choose 700 representative schools from Peru and to
randomly assign them to receive a novel curriculum with a well-being focus or to receive
a placebo control curriculum (to control for demand artifacts). We were invited to co-
design the well-being curriculum and to advise on best well-being measurement
instruments for adolescents and on experimental impact evaluation. The World Bank
collected data throughout the project, and the Ministry of Education implemented the
program.
Escuelas Amigas Program
Following qualitative focus groups with principals, teachers, students, and parents
from some of the schools that would be in the program, we identified that the program
name that most resonated with the local context and culture was Escuelas Amigas, or
Friendly Schools. The curriculum for this program, the Paso a Paso Curriculum, or Step
by Step Curriculum, had ten areas of focus that were analogous to those in the Bienestar
Curriculum in Jalisco, Mexico, with lexicon slightly adapted to the Peruvian reality:
40
1. atención plena (full attention)
2. autoconocimiento (self-knowledge)
3. manejo de emociones y estrés (management of emotions and stress)
4. empatía (empathy)
5. deporte (sports)
6. fortaleza mental y emocional (mental and emotional strength)
7. pensamiento crítico (critical thinking)
8. toma de decisions (decision-making)
9. comunicación efectiva (effective communication)
10. pensamiento creativo (creative thinking)
Just like in Jalisco, Mexico, the content and structure of the curriculum was
adapted so that it resonated with local principals, teachers, and students. We co-
developed the Paso a Paso Curriculum with local principals and teachers as well as with
staff trained in curricular development from Peru’s Ministry of Education.
Methods
The study included 694 secondary schools from all over Peru (grades 7 – 12). We
did not include students in grade 12 for our study, since they would have graduated by
the end of the intervention and we would not have access to them during post-
intervention measurements. The language of instruction in all of these schools is Spanish.
The study used a nested cluster randomized design at the whole-school level in
694 public secondary schools (q = 694,153 students). We randomly assigned the schools
to either the treatment group, which received the Paso a Paso Curriculum during 15
months, or to the control group, which received a placebo Paso a Paso Curriculum
during the same 15 months. 347 schools (q = 344,815 students) were in the treatment
41
group, and 347 schools (q = 349,338 students) were in the control group. The mean
student age was 15.4 years old (SD 0.8, min 11, max 28). 53% of students were female.
This was a single blind study – students, teachers, principals and school staff were
unaware of whether they were part of the treatment or control group. Throughout the
intervention, only researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and staff members
from Peru’s Ministry of Education were aware of which school was in which group.
28 trainers with a background in psychology or education received training over a
10-day Paso a Paso Curriculum retreat. The trainers who trained local trainers were
psychologists from the University of Pennsylvania and trained staff members from Peru’s
Ministry of Education; a training manual (Escuelas Amigas) was used. The trainers
taught the 28 local trainers how to practice the ten life skills and how to teach them to
other trainers as well as to principals and teachers. Local trainers were also trained on
how to teach teachers how to infuse their academic subjects (e.g., math, reading) with the
ten life skills, as well as on how to train other trainers to train teachers. The 28 local
trainers taught the Paso a Paso Curriculum to 360 local trainers during three weeks in
January and February 2014. The 360 local trainers then taught the Paso a Paso
Curriculum to teachers and principals in the 347 schools in the treatment group during 2
weeks in February 2014, before the 2014 academic year started in March. Local trainers,
principals, and teachers in the 347 schools in the treatment group implemented the Paso a
Paso Curriculum from March 2014 to July 2015.
25 trainers received training during a four-day placebo Paso a Paso Curriculum
retreat during which they learned about how to teach nutrition, psychology, and human
42
anatomy to teachers and principals as well as how to train other trainers. The trainers who
trained the 25 local trainers in this retreat were the same as the trainers who trained local
trainers in the Paso a Paso Curriculum retreat for the treatment group. The 28 local
trainers taught the placebo Paso a Paso Curriculum to 230 local trainers during 10 days
in February 2014. The 230 local trainers then taught the placebo Paso a Paso Curriculum
to teachers and principals in the 347 schools in the control group during 7 days in
February 2014. Local trainers, principals, and teachers in the 347 schools in the treatment
group implemented the placebo Paso a Paso Curriculum from March 2014 to July 2015.
The placebo curriculum covered the principles of nutrition, psychology, and human
anatomy as part of a 15-month Life Skills Course (Habilidades para la Vida) that was
taught to all students at each of these 347 secondary schools.
The principals and teachers from both groups of schools were told that they were
being trained by local trainers to teach the Paso a Paso Curriculum and that they would
be delivering a 15-month Life Skills Course aimed at increasing student well-being. A
Director de Bienestar (Well-being Director) with training in education was recruited and
trained for each school; these Directors were also blind and did not know in which group
their school was. The Directores de Bienestar ensured that the curriculum was faithfully
implemented throughout the 15-month intervention. The students in both groups of
schools received the same number of classroom hours during the actual 15-month Life
Skills Course and the placebo 15-month Life Skills Course: two hours.
Data Collection
43
We collected pre-intervention baseline data during March 2014 and post-
intervention data during July 2015 for this third study. It was similar in content to data
collection for Study 2 in Jalisco, Mexico, which included the Peruvian Spanish-version of
the EPOCH well-being survey. We used the Brislin translation-reverse translation
process to get a reliable version of the validated EPOCH instrument in the Spanish used
in Peru (Brislin, 1970). We also got access to students’ performance on the Evaluación
Censal de Estudiantes (ECE), the standardized exam in Peru, administered nationally
every November before the end of the academic year. Using international standards for
standardized testing, the ECE measures students’ performance in mathematics and
reading comprehension throughout primary and secondary school (Beltrán & Seinfeld,
2011; Näslund-Hadley, Norsworthy, & Thompson, 2010). The overall student
participation rate in data collection was 93.2%. We had access to students’ scores on the
ECE exam from November 2013 (before the beginning of the March 2014 intervention)
and from November 2015 (after the July 2015 end of the intervention).
Local trainers in Peru visited each of the 694 schools at least once per week to
measure treatment fidelity using an adapted evaluation checklist in the five domains that
best practices dictate for longitudinal outcome studies: study design, training, delivery,
receipt, and enactment (Moncher & Prinz, 1991; Smith, Daunic, & Taylor, 2007; Song,
Happ, & Sandelowski, 2010).
Following IRB regulations, all well-being and academic performance data were
stored in secure hard drives housed at the Ministry of Education in Lima, Peru.
Furthermore, all students in the study were assigned unique identifying numbers. Two
staff members from Peru’s Ministry of Education had access to both student names and
44
their unique identifiers, so data were de-identified to researchers from the University of
Pennsylvania. Throughout the study, University of Pennsylvania researchers remotely
accessed all raw data through a secure server for data analyses.
Results
The Paso a Paso Curriculum significantly increased student well-being. As
illustrated in Figure 5, longitudinal school-level analyses of survey data from March 2014
and July 2015 indicate that the Paso a Paso Curriculum significantly increased
adolescent well-being (as measured by the Peruvian Spanish-version of the EPOCH
scale) in treatment schools, compared to control schools (Cohen’s d = 0.24, t(692) =
2.81, P=0.0043). Intra-class correlation for students nested within schools was 0.18. The
difference in adolescent well-being between schools in the control condition and the
treatment condition before the GNH Curriculum intervention was not significant (d =
0.01, t(694) = 0.25, P>0.250).
45
Figure 5
The Paso a Paso Curriculum significantly increased adolescent well-being in treatment schools, compared
to control schools. In treatment schools, the mean EPOCH score before the intervention was 3.47 (SD 0.62,
min 1, max 5) and the mean EPOCH score after the intervention was 3.62 (SD 0.63, min 1, max 5). In
control schools, the mean EPOCH score before the intervention was 3.48 (SD 0.61, min 1, max 5) and the
mean EPOCH score after the intervention was 3.49 (SD 0.61, min 1, max 5).
The Paso a Paso Curriculum significantly increased academic performance. As
illustrated in Figure 6, longitudinal school-level analyses of test scores on the ECE from
November 2013 and November 2015 showed that the Paso a Paso Curriculum increased
academic achievement significantly in treatment schools, compared to control schools
(Cohen’s d = 0.19, t(694) = 2.45, P=0.014). Intra-class correlation for students nested
within schools was 0.09. The difference in standardized test scores between schools in
the control condition and the treatment condition before the intervention was not
significant (d = 0.01, t(694) = 0.11, P>0.250).
46
Figure 6
The Paso a Paso Curriculum significantly increased academic performance. In treatment schools, the mean
exam score during November 2013 (before the intervention) was 63.4 (SD 7.89, min 0, max 100) and the
mean exam score during November 2015 (after the intervention) was 64.9 (SD 7.49, min 0, max 100). In
control schools, the mean exam score during November 2013 was 63.5 (SD 7.45, min 0, max 100) and the
mean exam score during November 2015 was 63.7 (SD 7.44, min 0, max 100).
Multivariate stepwise linear modeling of academic achievement at time t1, using
academic achievement at time t0 and different dimensions of well-being as predictors,
revealed the same three well-being factors as the strongest predictors of increased
performance on standardized test scores as Studies 1 and 2, controlling for academic
performance at time t0: higher connectedness, more perseverance, and more engagement
(all as measured by the Peruvian Spanish version of the EPOCH survey instrument).
Academic performance at time t0 accounts for 0.62 of the variance in academic
performance at time t1 for students in the intervention group. Of the remaining variance
of 0.38, 0.042 is explained by changes in student engagement from time t0 to time t1
ns
*
47
(controlling for the other four factors of EPOCH), which corresponds to 11.1% of the
remaining variance.
Table 7
Model Summary (dependent variable: Academic performance t1)
Model
R
R Square
Adjusted R
Square
Std. Error of
the Estimate
R Square
Change
Sig. F
Change
1
.79a
.62
.62
0.67
.62
.000
2
.81b
.66
.65
0.65
.042
.000
a."Predictors:"(Constant),"Academic"performance"t0"
b."Predictors:"(Constant),"Academic"performance"t0,"delta_engagement"
"
Academic performance at time t0 accounts for 0.62 of the variance in academic performance at time t1 for
students in the intervention group. Of the remaining 0.38 of the variance, 0.042 is explained by changes in
student engagement from time t0 to time t1 (controlling for the other four factors of EPOCH), which
corresponds to 11.1% of the remaining variance. These two models are statistically significant (p<0.0001).
0.053 is explained by changes in student perseverance from time t0 to time t1
(controlling for the other four factors of EPOCH), which corresponds to 13.9% of the
remaining variance.
Table 8
Model Summary (dependent variable: Academic performance t1)
Model
R
R Square
Adjusted R
Square
Std. Error of
the Estimate
R Square
Change
Sig. F
Change
1
.79a
.62
.62
0.67
.62
.000
2
.82b
.67
.66
0.64
.053
.000
a."Predictors:"(Constant),"Academic"performance"t0"
b."Predictors:"(Constant),"Academic"performance"t0,"delta_perseverance"
"
Academic performance at time t0 accounts for 0.62 of the variance in academic performance at time t1 for
students in the intervention group. Of the remaining 0.38 of the variance, 0.053 is explained by changes in
student perseverance from time t0 to time t1 (controlling for the other four factors of EPOCH), which
corresponds to 13.9% of the remaining variance. These two models are statistically significant (p<0.0001).
48
0.037 is explained by changes in student connectedness from time t0 to time t1
(controlling for the other four factors of EPOCH), which corresponds to 9.7% of the
remaining variance.
Table 9"
Model Summary (dependent variable: Academic performance t1)
Model
R
R Square
Adjusted R
Square
Std. Error of
the Estimate
R Square
Change
Sig. F
Change
1
.79a
.62
.62
0.67
.62
.000
2
.81b
.65
.64
1.65
.037
.000
a."Predictors:"(Constant),"Academic"performance"t0"
b."Predictors:"(Constant),"Academic"performance"t0,"delta_connectedness"
"
Academic performance at time t0 accounts for 0.62 of the variance in academic performance at time t1 for
students in the intervention group. Of the remaining 0.38 of the variance, 0.037 is explained by changes in
student connectedness from time t0 to time t1 (controlling for the other four factors of EPOCH), which
corresponds to 9.7% of the remaining variance. These two models are statistically significant (p<0.0001).
Changes in optimism and happiness accounted for marginal amounts of the
remaining variance in academic achievement at time t1 (1.1% and 1.4%, respectively).
Tables 7, 8, and 9 show the results of multivariate stepwise linear modeling.
Our treatment fidelity data indicate that there was 71% treatment fidelity in the
347 schools that received the Paso a Paso Curriculum and 52% treatment fidelity in the
347 control schools that received the placebo Paso a Paso Curriculum.
Discussion
The curricula in Bhutan, Mexico, and Peru, designed to enhance student well-
being, not only increased well-being, but they also significantly increased students’
performance on national standardized exams. Taken together, our data demonstrate that
well-being and academic achievement are not antagonistic, as some have suggested
(Mayer & Cobb, 2000); on the contrary, teaching life skills consistently increased well-
49
being and academic achievement in different social, economic, and cultural contexts and
at large scales.
Stepwise linear regressions revealed three potential mechanisms through which
the curricula caused an increase in standardized test results. Controlling for academic
performance before the intervention (time t0) in students who received the treatment
curricula, perseverance was consistently the strongest predictor of post-intervention
increases in academic performance (time t1). Connectedness and Engagement followed
perseverance in being the strongest preditors of increases in academic performance.
Increases in the perseverance of students who received well-being curricula in the
three studies accounted for a range of 13.9% in Peru to 20.2% of their increased post-
intervention academic performance, controlling for performance on standardized exams
at time t0. This finding is consistent with the existing psychological literature on self-
control, grit, and academic achievement (Duckworth & Seligman, 2005).
Increases in the connectedness of students who received the intervention curricula
accounted for 9.7% in Peru to 16.3% in Bhutan of their post-intervention increased
academic performance, controlling for performance on standardized exams at time t0.
Research suggests that having high-quality friendships, or at least one best friend, helps
prevent children and adolescents from being bullied, a leading cause of social and
emotional violence in schools (Bollmer, Milich, Harris, & Maras, 2005). Further, positive
teacher-student relationships play an important role in students’ resilience and academic
performance (Marzano, 2003; Nadel & Muir, 2005; Raskauskas et al., 2010). In the
classrooms in this study, for instance, both teachers and students soon learned that
50
adolescent learners did significantly more things right than they did wrong, and thus the
fact that positive feedback became more frequent than negative feedback was a more
accurate representation of students’ academic performance and behavior. By
experientially learning the skills of effective communication and empathy, the
environment in classrooms changed from being rigid, dull, and hierarchical to more
egalitarian, respectful, energetic, and motivating.
Increases in engagement for students who received the well-being curricula for
11.1% in Peru to 15.8% in Mexico of their post-intervention increased academic
performance, controlling for performance on standardized exams at time t0. The literature
on “flow” suggests that individuals experience this psychological state when they are
using their core strengths, particularly when engaged in an activity aligned with their
interests (Csikszentmihalyi, 1991; Peterson & Seligman, 2004). Heightened attention is
one underlying mechanism of flow, and prior research has demonstrated that heightened
attention leads to enhanced performance (Pashler, Johnston, & Ruthruff, 2001).
Meta analyses have shown that the best interventions that directly target academic
performance have, on average, small effect sizes of about 0.15 to 0.20 SDs (Durlak et al.,
2011; Heckman & Rubinstein, 2001; Payton et al., 2008). These interventions are
expensive and implemented at a relatively small scale (less than 1,000 students). Our
interventions had effect sizes on students’ performance on national standardized exams of
0.19 SDs with 694,153 students in Peru to 0.53 SDs with 6,524 students in Bhutan. Taken
together these results suggest that targeting the skills for well-being might yield even
more academic dividends than directly targeting academic performance. Teaching
students these life skills may make them more receptive to learning academic material
51
and may enable them to better deploy their academic skills when taking standardized
exams.
Our results revealed a tradeoff between number of students in intervention and
effect sizes, both for well-being and for academic performance.
Figure 7
There was a tradeoff between the number of students in our three interventions and the effect sizes on
student well-being. In Bhutan, we had 6,524 students in our RCT and found an effect size of 0.59 standard
deviations on their well-being, as measured by the EPOCH measure of adolescent well-being. In Mexico,
we had 68,762 students in our RCT and found an effect size of 0.41 standard deviations on their well-being,
as measured by the Mexican Spanish-version of the EPOCH measure of adolescent well-being. In Peru, we
had 694,153 students in our RCT, and we found an effect size of 0.24 standard deviations on their well-
being, as measured by the Peruvian-Spanish version of the EPOCH measure of adolescent well-being.
52
Figure 8
There was a tradeoff between the number of students in our three interventions and the effect sizes on
student academic performance. In Bhutan, we had 6,524 students in our RCT and found an effect size of
0.53 standard deviations on their academic performance, as measured by the NEA national standardized
exam. In Mexico, we had 68,762 students in our RCT and found an effect size of 0.34 standard deviations
on their academic performance, as measured by the ENLACE and PLANEA national standardized exams.
In Peru, we had 694,153 students in our RCT, and we found an effect size of 0.19 standard deviations on
their well-being, as measured by the ECE national standardized exam.
Our treatment fidelity results indicate that the larger the size of the intervention,
the lower the treatment fidelity of well-being curricula. The treatment fidelities for our
three well-being curricula interventions were 87% in Bhutan, 78% in Mexico, and 71% in
Peru. There are a number of explanations for the decreases in treatment fidelity as our
interventions got larger. The increased layers of trainers could have diluted the fidelity of
the implementation of the well-being curricula. In Bhutan, there were no intermediary
trainers, in Mexico there was one layer of intermediary trainers, and in Peru there were
two layers of intermediary trainers.
Peru
53
The education literature has consistently identified teacher quality as the single
most important factor in students’ education outcomes, during the schooling years and
beyond (Darling-Hammond, 2000; Rice, 2003). The well-being retreats, whether they
were for principals and teachers in Bhutan or for trainers in Mexico and in Peru, were
designed to be immersive transformative experiences. Only in such a context could adults
learn to practice and embody the well-being life skills in a short period of time. The fact
that students in each of the three studies were at different distances from the adults who
had the immersive well-being retreats could also additionally account for the decrease in
treatment fidelity and corresponding effect sizes. In Bhutan, for instance, the actual
teachers who experienced the well-being retreat taught students the GNH Curriculum. In
Peru, on the other hand, teachers who taught students the Paso a Paso Curriculum were
trained by trainers who themselves were trained by trainers who had the immersive well-
being retreat.
With the adequate financial, human, and infrastructural resources during future
interventions, all teachers who teach a well-being curriculum could have immersive well-
being retreat experiences. Thus, whether we can have the large effect sizes on both well-
being and academic performance that we found in Bhutan at a larger scale like Peru is an
empirical question that future well-being and education experiments will answer.
A New Educational Paradigm
Even though material standards have improved across most of the world during
the last 50 years, well-being has remained roughly unchanged in most countries
(Easterlin, 2013; Inglehart, Foa, Peterson, & Welzel, 2007). During the same five
54
decades, the prevalence of depression has increased at an alarming rate, and the median
age of a first episode of depression has also moved from adulthood to early adolescence
(Birmaher et al., 1996; Lewinsohn, Rohde, Seeley, & Fischer, 1993; Weissman, 1987;
Wickramaratne, Weissman, Leaf, & Holford, 1989). Meta analyses show that mental
illness contributes to lower grades, higher absenteeism, lower self-control, and higher
dropout rates (Hinshaw, 1992; McLeod & Fettes, 2007). These findings suggest a need
for an education that simultaneously raises adolescent psychological well-being and
teaches academic skills (Steinberg, 2014). Such a “positive education” offers a new
educational model that, in addition to academic learning, emphasizes well-being as a
buildable life-long resource (Seligman et al., 2009).
Previous small-scale studies have suggested that youth well-being contributes to
academic achievement, fewer risky behaviors, and better physical health in adulthood
(Caprara et al., 2000; Hoyt, Chase-Lansdale, McDade, & Adam, 2012). Other studies
have also suggested that student well-being is likely a protective factor against youth
depression and may promote creativity, social cohesion, and good citizenship (Nidich et
al., 2011; Wang, Haertel, & Walberg, 1997; Waters, 2011). Moreover, 15 years later in
life, adolescents with higher subjective well-being likely earn more money, are more
successful, and have higher academic attainment than less happy teenagers (De Neve &
Oswald, 2012; Diener, Nickerson, Lucas, & Sandvik, 2002).
So a case can be made for an education that raises well-being in its own right and
as preventive of mental illness. In other words, well-being is not morally, politically,
religiously, culturally, or tribally charged, but rather a universal pursuit with intrinsic
value, especially if lexica and measurement instruments are adapted to local contexts, as
55
we have done in these three studies (Gable & Haidt, 2005; Haidt, 2003). But a common
worry about such interventions is that they might interfere with traditional academic
goals and divert scarce resources away from academics. In the three first large-scale,
whole-schools randomized studies on well-being and achievement, we showed that
teaching the skills for well-being at a large-scale is possible and that it lastingly improves
academic performance. We conclude that positive education – building both well-being
skills and academic skills hand-in-hand – is feasible and desirable. The evidence our
three studies provide allow us to make the argument that positive education, and well-
being science beyond education, can and should drive education policy at local, national,
and international levels (Adler & Seligman, 2016). This new paradigm will sow the seeds
for sustainably enhancing the human condition.
56
APPENDIX
School Randomization in Bhutan
Following discussions with the Ministry of Education of Bhutan, we selected 18
secondary schools (grades 7 – 12) that are representative of secondary schools in the
country. These schools are located in three districts (dzongkhags) in Bhutan: Thimphu,
Punakha, and Wangdue Phodrang. The secondary schools are the following:
1. Babesa Secondary School
2. Bajo Secondary School
3. Changangkha Secondary School
4. ChangRigphel Secondary School
5. Dechencholing Secondary School
6. Druk Secondary School
7. Jigme Namgyel Secondary School
8. Kelki Secondary School
9. Khasadrapchu Secondary School
10. Lungtenphu Secondary School
11. Motithang Secondary School
12. Nima Secondary School
13. Punakha Secondary School
14. Rinchen Secondary School
15. Samtengang Secondary School
16. Wangdue Secondary School
17. Yangchenphu Secondary School
18. Zilukha Secondary School
The researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the Ministry of
Education staff involved in this project decided to use an algorithm that randomized
schools into two groups: a treatment group and a control group. The algorithm did not
dictate that the two groups have the same number of schools. 11 of the above secondary
schools were assigned to the treatment group, and seven were assigned to the control
group.
Data collection in Bhutan
The academic year in Bhutan starts during February, following the two-month
winter vacations. Baseline data collection for this study took place during May 2012.
Two follow-up measurements took place during September 2013 and September 2014.
Students in grades 7 to 12 from the 18 schools in the study completed the May 2012
baseline survey. During the 2013 academic year, only students in grades 8 to 12
completed the follow-up September 2013 survey (students in grade 7 during 2013 were in
primary school during baseline data collection in 2012). During the 2014 academic year,
only students in grades 9-12 completed the follow-up September 2014 survey (students in
57
grades 7 and 8 were in primary school during baseline data collection in 2012, and
students in grade 7 were in primary school during the first follow-up survey in 2013).
Only data from students who completed all three rounds of survey data collection
were used for this study (n=6,524). These were students who were in grades 9-12 during
the 2014 academic year. Students were assigned an identification number throughout
study. All survey data were anonymous, and only one of the researchers had access to the
students’ names and their corresponding identification numbers. Throughout the study
and up to the present, all data and data analyses are housed in password-protected
computers at Bhutan’s Ministry of Education. Researchers from the University of
Pennsylvania accessed and analyzed all data using remote Internet access to the
computers at the Bhutanese Ministry of Education. If reviewers need any further
summary statistics or raw data, we would be happy to ask Bhutan’s Ministry of
Education for permission to share it.
58
Sample items from Bhutan’s National Education Assessment (NEA)
The main function of mitochondria is to:
a) produce energy in cells
b) convert RNA to DNA
c) serve as a membrane
d) produce protein
e) serve as a catalyst in cells
Nguyen has 10 Ngultrum more than Karma. Karma has twice as many Ngultrum as
Sangay. Nguyen has 36 Ngultrum. How many Ngultrum does Sangay have?
a) 26
b) 52
c) 13
d) 39
e) none of the above
59
Sample items from the EPOCH measure of youth well-being
1.## I#have#friends#that#I#really#care#about.##
1 2 3 4 5
Strongly Disagree/ Don’t agree Agree/ Strongly agree/
Disagree/ No or disagree/ Yes Definitely yes
Definitely no Undecided
60
Sample Excerpts from Educating for GNH training manual
61
62
Sample Excerpts from Life Skills Course in GNH Curriculum for teachers
63
64
Treatment Fidelity Checklist
This treatment fidelity model was used to retroactively translate our extensive qualitative
notes into quantitative treatment fidelity data using the 5-item checklist below, per
guidelines for best practices in longitudinal outcome studies.
Focus&Area&
Information&Used&to&Evaluate&Treatment&
Fidelity&
Design"
Evidence"that"treatment"schools"and"
control"schools"remained"separate"and"
that"the"single-blind"design"endured."
"
No"contamination"or"communication"
between"schools."
Training"
Adherence"to"the"training"manual"
"
Observation"of"teachers,"note"taking,"and"
retroactive"checklist"of"adherence"to"the"
training"
Delivery"
Adherence"to"the"actual"GNH$Curriculum"
or"the"placebo"GNH$Curriculum$
"
Observation"of"teachers,"note"taking,"and"
retroactive"checklist"of"adherence"to"the"
curricula"
Receipt"
Lessons"by"trained"teachers"in"Life$Skills$
Course"and"lessons"by"other"teachers"
through"a"GNH$Lens$
$
Observation"of"teachers,"note"taking,"and"
retroactive"checklist"of"adherence"to"the"
curricula"
Enactment"
Monthly"unannounced"visits"to"each"of"the"
18"schools"in"the"study"by"a"member"of"the"
research"team."
65
Evaluación Nacional del Logro Académico en Centros Escolares (ENLACE) in
Mexico
66
Exerpts from ENLACE
Language comprehension section
Mathematics section
67
From ENLACE to PLANEA in 2015
68
Evaluación Censal de Estudiantes (ECE) in Peru
69
Excerpts from the ECE standardized exam
Reading comprehension section
70
Mathematics section
71
Epoch Measure of Youth Well-being
Kern, M. L., Benson, L., Steinberg, E. A., & Steinberg, L. (2015). The EPOCH Measure
of
Adolescent Well-Being. Psychological Assessment.
72
Additional images
Kern, M. L., Waters, L. E., Adler, A., & White, M. A. (2015). A multidimensional approach to
measuring well-being in students: Application of the PERMA framework. The journal of positive
psychology, 10(3), 262-271.
73
Kern, M. L., Waters, L., Adler, A., & White, M. (2014). Assessing employee wellbeing in schools
using a multifaceted approach: Associations with physical health, life satisfaction, and
professional thriving. Psychology, 5(06), 500.
74
75
76
77
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... Student well-being is closely linked to academic success (Adler, 2016;Edgar et al., 2019;Litalien et al., 2015a;Pekrun et al., 2009;Zajacova et al., 2005;Zandvliet et al., 2019), however, the way tertiary students gauge success is complex (Naylor, 2017). Pascarella and Terenzini (2005) argue that degree completion is the over-all goal for a majority of students, but note that, with increasing concern for student well-being in higher education settings, it is important for institutions to understand and address the psychological, social and pedagogical aspects of academic success for students. ...
... Student well-being is closely linked to academic success (Adler, 2016;Cater, 2016;Edgar et al., 2019;Litalien et al., 2015a;Pekrun et al., 2009;Zajacova et al., 2005;Zandvliet et al. 2019), however, the way tertiary students gauge success is complex (Kahu & Nelson, 2017;Naylor, 2017). While degree completion may be the over-all goal for the majority of students, increasing concern for student well-being in higher education settings highlights the need for learning institutions to understand and address the psychological, social and pedagogical aspects of academic success for their students (Cater, 2016;Frederickson, 2001;Koenka, 2020;Litalien et al., 2015a;Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). ...
... The Okanagan Charter (2015) calls for higher education institutions to provide learning environments that foster student well-being. Student well-being is closely linked to their success (Adler 2016;Edgar et al., 2019;Litalien et al., 2015a;Pekrun et al., 2009;Zajacova et al., 2005;Zandvliet et al. 2019) and it is important for postsecondary institutions to understand and address the psychological, social and pedagogical aspects of academic success for students (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). Furthermore, Schreiner (2010) believes that students are more likely to experience success and satisfaction in their study when they are in an environment that allows them to thrive, rather than simply survive. ...
Thesis
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People vary in the way in which they perceive, process and react to environmental factors, and some are more or less sensitive than others. There is a dearth of research investigating the possible impact that environmental sensitivity has in the postsecondary education context. To address this gap in literature, the following research question was posed: What impact does environmental sensitivity have on student learning in tertiary education? To answer this question a two-stage mixed methods research project was undertaken. The first stage involved two studies which used snowball recruitment via social media, and subject inclusion criteria were current or previous postsecondary education experience. Participants completed on-line surveys. Study One is the design, development and validation of a self-report instrument measuring postsecondary students’ perceptions of their learning success, and participants completed the Perceived Success in Study Survey (PSISS) and associated demographic questions. Two phases were undertaken to check for reliability of results, n=225 and n=237. Reliability statistics found a high level of internal consistency, and principal component analysis identified five factors: Intellectual Stimulation, Generic Skills, Work-life Balance; Commitment to Learning and Learning Community. The PSISS was found to be a comprehensive measure of overall success for postsecondary learners. The participants in Study Two (n=365) completed the PSISS and the 12-item Highly Sensitive Person Scale (HSPS-12, Pluess et al., 2020) and related demographic questions. Independent T-tests, ANOVA and Tukey post-hoc calculations identified that high sensitivity is positively associated with success-promoting attitudes and strategies as identified on three of the five PSISS factors. It also found positive associations between total scores on the PSISS and the sensitivity subscales of Aesthetic Sensitivity and Ease of Excitation (Smolewska et al., 2006). This study included a response field to register interest in participation in further research. Those who responded, and who rated as highly sensitive on the HSPS-12, were invited to take part in a semi-structured interview, leading into the second stage of the project. Thirteen Zoom interviews were conducted with participants from a broad range of geographic locations and levels and fields of study in order to exemplify and elaborate on the quantitative findings. Reflexive inductive thematic analysis was employed to analyse the data, and sixteen codes and three themes were identified. Responses were written vi into a semantic narrative, accompanied by pertinent participant quotations, providing a rich and detailed description of participant experience. The results of this study confirmed that there are educational advantages contingent with high sensitivity, including the use of a broad array of metacognitive study and self-care strategies, and the prioritisation of wellbeing and work-life balance. Conversely, it also found that numerous simultaneous study demands can lead to feelings of overwhelm, however, the participants employed a comprehensive array of metacognitive coping strategies to manage these. Low sensory thresholds associated with high sensitivity can present challenges for highly sensitive students who can be negatively impacted by aspects of the physical learning environments including light, noise, indoor environmental pollutants. Additionally, participants highlighted the need for postsecondary institutions to provide education about environmental sensitivity, to allow flexibility in teaching delivery, to explore options to support students who may struggle with group-work and presentations, and to provide assessment accommodations. Overall, the project has identified a number of positive and negative associations between levels of learner sensitivity and student success and suggests that education about environmental sensitivity for students and teaching staff would be helpful for increasing awareness about the benefits and challenges of environmental sensitivity. Institutional commitment to providing optimal physical learning and social environments may enhance the learning experience for all students. Finally, recommendations for policy, practice and institutions highlight elements that will be of benefit to all students, most especially those who sit at the high end of the sensitivity spectrum.
... In practice, it fosters positive character traits and cognitions of students to help them achieve not only a higher level of well-being but also better academic performance (Park, 2004). Various positive education programs have been developed to foster these character strengths and cognitions (Waters, 2011;Norrish et al., 2013;Adler, 2016). There is empirical evidence that these programs improve students' academic performance (Seligman et al., 2009;Adler, 2016). ...
... Various positive education programs have been developed to foster these character strengths and cognitions (Waters, 2011;Norrish et al., 2013;Adler, 2016). There is empirical evidence that these programs improve students' academic performance (Seligman et al., 2009;Adler, 2016). In particular, research and intervention programs on growth mindset and grit are fast growing (Duckworth, 2016). ...
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Growth mindset and grit have attracted much attention in educational research recently. Yet the underlying mechanisms that relate these variables to each other as well as to other variables remain largely unclear. This study investigates the relationships among growth mindset, learning motivations, and grit. We recruited a total of 1,842 students (884 males and 958 females) from third to ninth grade in a Chinese city. Results from the structural equation model analyzing the students' responses showed that learning motivations partially mediate the relationship between growth mindset and grit. Specifically, intrinsic motivation and identified regulation of extrinsic motivation are positively associated with growth mindset and grit, while external regulation of extrinsic motivation is negatively associated with them. Additionally, introjected regulation of extrinsic motivation is uncorrelated with these two variables. This study furthers the understanding of the underlying mechanisms through which growth mindset and grit positively impact education.
... This includes classroom activities but also within their daily lives. Students would gain much if they had a metacognitive understanding of their own emotional, mental, and physical wellness (Ashdown and Bernard, 2012;Adler, 2016). Indeed, more than anything, I believe that this will lead to actively developing grit and growth mindsets. ...
Thesis
Full-text available
Before teachers focus on teaching the curriculum, it is essential to prepare students’ mental health and wellbeing for learning systematically. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a mental health crisis, particularly in those whose daily lives have been disrupted (Hamza et al., 2020). This includes students all around the world. Hence, the role of teachers as caregivers is especially important. This action research explores how teachers can improve students’ wellbeing in an online setting via relationship-building practices. The aim is to highlight specific practices that can improve student wellbeing and examine student perceptions and the effectiveness of these practices. One central question and three sub-questions were investigated: How do class and individual meetings focused on improving student-teacher relationships impact student wellbeing? i. Which practice is most effective? ii. What are students’ perceptions of these practices? iii. How do student-teacher relationships impact student wellbeing? The participants were middle school students in a full-fledged online school (which has been operating online since 2015). They were ages nine to sixteen. The intervention that was implemented was two-fold: class and individual meetings. Before the meetings, quantitative data – along with some qualitative data – was collected via online surveys, based on the PERMAH model of wellbeing. Observations by the researcher and her colleague were collected during the intervention, and interviews were conducted post-intervention. The study found that though class meetings had more of an impact on student wellbeing, students perceived the individual meeting as more impactful. Following the intervention, school-wide measures were introduced to apply class meetings, and teachers were encouraged to implement the style of individual meetings that were conducted in the study. This study’s findings support the existing literature regarding the importance of student wellbeing and relationship-building practices.
... It is also a period of learning and opportunity to develop knowledge and skills, manage inter and intrapersonal relationships and acquire helpful attributes and abilities (Bosma & Jackson, 1990;Jackson & Goossens, 2016). With the largest adolescent population in the world, 253 million, with every fifth person between 10 to 19 years (UNICEF, 2021a;WHO, 2021); proactive investment in the physical and mental health of adolescents, would help India thrive socially, politically and economically (Adler, 2016;P. Gupta & Khare, 2021). ...
Research
This is a study to assess the feasibility and effectiveness of a brief online psychoeducational intervention for school students in India
... Well-being is also important for teachers. There is multinational evidence (from Bhutan, Mexico, and Peru) that teacher well-being is causally related to student success (Adler, 2016). Clearly, the ability to track the well-being and needs of students and teachers will help educational systems better address those needs and thereby produce improved student outcomes. ...
... Moreover, the objective of supporting student wellbeing might be insufficient. The wellbeing of staff may also be critical for facilitating optimal environments for learning -as it has shown to be in several studies (for review, see Adler, 2016). Unfortunately, there have not been nearly enough studies on the role of wellbeing in learning and in teaching-far more are needed (see Grabel, 2017 for review and Yu et al, 2018 for investigation in a university context). ...
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Editorial The RSD10 symposium was held at the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, Delft University of Technology, 2nd-6th November 2021. After a successful (yet unforeseen) online version of the RSD 9 symposium, RSD10 was designed as a hybrid conference. How can we facilitate the physical encounters that inspire our work, yet ensure a global easy access for joining the conference, while dealing well with the ongoing uncertainties of the global COVID pandemic at the same time? In hindsight, the theme of RSD10 could not have been a better fit with the conditions in which it had to be organized: “Playing with Tensions: Embracing new complexity, collaboration and contexts in systemic design”. Playing with Tensions Complex systems do not lend themselves for simplification. Systemic designers have no choice but to embrace complexity, and in doing so, embrace opposing concepts and the resulting paradoxes. It is at the interplay of these ideas that they find the most fruitful regions of exploration. The main conference theme explored design and systems thinking practices as mediators to deal fruitfully with tensions. Our human tendency is to relieve the tensions, and in design, to resolve the so-called “pain points.” But tensions reveal paradoxes, the sites of connection, breaks in scale, emergence of complexity. Can we embrace the tension and paradoxes as valuable social feedback in our path to just and sustainable futures? The symposium took off with two days of well-attended workshops on campus and online. One could sense tensions through embodied experiences in one of the workshops, while reframing systemic paradoxes as fruitful design starting points in another. In the tradition of RSD, a Gigamap Exhibition was organized. The exhibition showcased mind-blowing visuals that reveal the tension between our own desire for order and structure and our desire to capture real-life dynamics and contradicting perspectives. Many of us enjoyed the high quality and diversity in the keynotes throughout the symposium. As chair of the SDA, Dr. Silvia Barbero opened in her keynote with a reflection on the start and impressive evolution of the Relating Systems thinking and Design symposia. Prof.Dr. Derk Loorbach showed us how transition research conceptualizes shifts in societal systems and gave us a glimpse into their efforts to foster desired ones. Prof.Dr. Elisa Giaccardi took us along a journey of technologically mediated agency. She advocated for a radical shift in design to deal with this complex web of relationships between things and humans. Indy Johar talked about the need to reimagine our relationship with the world as one based on fundamental interdependence. And finally, Prof.Dr. Klaus Krippendorf systematically unpacked the systemic consequences of design decisions. Together these keynote speakers provided important insights into the role of design in embracing systemic complexity, from the micro-scale of our material contexts to the macro-scale of globally connected societies. And of course, RSD10 would not be an RSD symposium if it did not offer a place to connect around practical case examples and discuss how knowledge could improve practice and how practice could inform and guide research. Proceedings RSD10 has been the first symposium in which contributors were asked to submit a full paper: either a short one that presented work-in-progress, or a long one presenting finished work. With the help of an excellent list of reviewers, this set-up allowed us to shape a symposium that offered stage for high-quality research, providing a platform for critical and fruitful conversations. Short papers were combined around a research approach or methodology, aiming for peer-learning on how to increase the rigour and relevance of our studies. Long papers were combined around commonalities in the phenomena under study, offering state-of-the-art research. The moderation of engaged and knowledgeable chairs and audience lifted the quality of our discussions. In total, these proceedings cover 33 short papers and 19 long papers from all over the world. From India to the United States, and Australia to Italy. In the table of contents, each paper is represented under its RSD 10 symposium track as well as a list of authors ordered alphabetically. The RSD10 proceedings capture the great variety of high-quality papers yet is limited to only textual contributions. We invite any reader to visit the rsdsymposium.org website to browse through slide-decks, video recordings, drawing notes and the exhibition to get the full experience of RSD10 and witness how great minds and insights have been beautifully captured! Word of thanks Let us close off with a word of thanks to our dean and colleagues for supporting us in hosting this conference, the SDA for their trust and guidance, Dr. Peter Jones and Dr. Silvia Barbero for being part of the RSD10 scientific committee, but especially everyone who contributed to the content of the symposium: workshop moderators, presenters, and anyone who participated in the RSD 10 conversation. It is only in this complex web of (friction-full) relationships that we can further our knowledge on systemic design: thanks for being part of it! Dr. JC Diehl, Dr. Nynke Tromp, and Dr. Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer Editors RSD10
Chapter
Governments in liberal democracies pursue social welfare, but in many different ways. The wellbeing approach instead asks: Why not focus directly on increasing measured human happiness? Why not try to improve people’s overall quality of life, as it is subjectively seen by citizens themselves? The radical implications of this stance include shifting attention to previously neglected areas (such as mental health and ‘social infrastructure’ services) and developing defensible measures of overall wellbeing or quality of life indicators. Can one ‘master’ concept of wellbeing work to create more holism in policy-making? Or should we stick with multiple metrics? These debates have been live in relation to an alternative ‘capacities’ approaches, and they are well-developed in health policymaking. Most recently, the connections between wellbeing and political participation have come into sharper focus. Wellbeing remains a contested concept, one that can be interpreted and used differently, with consequences for how it is incorporated into policy decisions. By bringing together scholars from economics, psychology and behavioural science, philosophy and political science, the authors explore how different disciplinary approaches can contribute to the study of wellbeing and how this can shape policy priorities.
Article
Full-text available
Past reviews have examined the association between positive personality traits known as character strengths and work-related outcomes. However, little is known about the role of positive traits in the pre-career stage. This study aims to fill this gap by mapping the peer-reviewed literature on the relationships between character strengths, moral motivation and vocational identity in adolescents and young adult students. Scopus and Web of Science databases were used to identify English written sources published between 1980 and October 2020. Documents had to include one of the 24 positive psychology character strengths or a moral motivation construct (moral reasoning, moral identity or moral emotions) and one vocational identity process (commitment, exploration or reconsideration). 136 documents were selected (123 quantitative, 8 qualitative, and 5 theoretical). 15 strengths were studied together with a vocational identity process. The most investigated strengths were prudence (27.9%) curiosity (20.6%), hope (20.6%) and love (19.9%). Only one moral motivation construct (the moral emotion of empathy) was associated with vocational commitment. Four character strengths were the most studied in association with vocational identity. These strengths coincided with some skills and competencies promoted in career counselling. Some suggestions for future research on vocational development and character education are stated.
Conference Paper
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My Wellness Check" is a wellbeing assessment system designed to help universities systematically support student and staff wellbeing. In this paper, we present a narrative describing the human-centered design process used to develop a context-sensitive wellbeing feedback system within a large technical university during the COVID19 pandemic. We share quantitative and qualitative findings from the first 2 feedback cycles, where wellbeing assessments were sent to over 30,000 students and staff. By involving community members and decision-makers in the qualitative data analysis, we successfully translated results into administrative policy and community action. Our ongoing design research project highlights the desirability and feasibility of wellbeing feedback loops within large complex systems.
Article
Full-text available
Indicators of social progress are the primary drivers of public policy. If existing economic measures of prosperity are complemented with wellbeing metrics that better capture changes in individuals’ quality of life, decision makers will be better informed to assess and design policy. The science of wellbeing has yielded extensive knowledge and measurement instruments during more than three decades. We review the existing wellbeing literature and answer three questions: (1) What is wellbeing? (2) How do we measure wellbeing? And, importantly, distinguishing this review from previous ones, (3) How do we use wellbeing metrics to assess and design policy? We suggest that the science of wellbeing is empirically mature enough to complement economic assessments of national progress. We build on existing work to provide recommendations on metrics and new, specific policies for societal wellbeing.
Article
In four studies, the authors examined the correlates of the disposition toward gratitude. Study 1 revealed that self-ratings and observer ratings of the grateful disposition are associated with positive affect and well-being prosocial behaviors and traits, and religiousness/spirituality. Study 2 replicated these findings in a large nonstudent sample. Study 3 yielded similar results to Studies 1 and 2 and provided evidence that gratitude is negatively associated with envy and materialistic attitudes. Study 4 yielded evidence that these associations persist after controlling for Extraversion/positive affectivity, Neuroticism/negative affectivity, and Agreeableness. The development of the Gratitude Questionnaire, a unidimensional measure with good psychometric properties, is also described.
Article
The present research suggests that automatic and controlled intergroup biases can be modified through diversity education. In 2 experiments, students enrolled in a prejudice and conflict seminar showed significantly reduced implicit and explicit anti-Black biases, compared with control students. The authors explored correlates of prejudice and stereotype reduction. In each experiment, seminar students' implicit and explicit change scores positively covaried with factors suggestive of affective and cognitive processes, respectively. The findings show the malleability of implicit prejudice and stereotypes and suggest that these may effectively be changed through affective processes.
Book
Based on a careful review of the international evidence, this book aims to provide a clear and practical overview of ways in which mainstream schools can promote the mental, emotional and social health of all those who work and learn there. It outlines the competences that constitute emotional and social health and wellbeing, and examines the evidence that social and emotional learning and academic achievement can go hand in hand, and that the same key factors underlie both emotionally healthy and effective schools. It explores the areas of school life that are key to promoting social and emotional health, including the curriculum, teaching and learning, relationships with families and the community, and school management.
Book
Values Education and Quality Teaching: The Double Helix Effect reports on the results of two of the major projects in the Australian Government's Values Education Program. These results point to the fact that Values Education can no longer be seen as marginal to the main role of teaching and schooling nor as a venture merely for religious schooling. In contrast, the results show that Values Education sits at the centre of teaching and schooling wherever it occurs. The importance of Values Education is in its potential to re-focus teachers and schools on their essential purpose, namely the holistic betterment of the students in their care. The focus of Values Education coincides with the results of research into student achievement that illustrate the vital role played by relationships of care, trust and respect with teachers if students are to 'do well' both academically and more broadly. It picks up on a feature of Quality Teaching research concerned with the creation of the positive and supportive learning ambience. It is a feature that can be overlooked in the concern for technique and craft . Yet research tells us that it is this ambience, and especially the positive relationships that are part and parcel of it, that is one of the essential ingredients in student achievement. Furthermore, research tells us that student achievement is more assured when those values of care, respect and trust that underpin the learning relationship are made explicit in all aspects of teaching and schooling, including in the curriculum. In this sense, Values Education might be described as the 'other side of the coin' to Quality Teaching, as its sometimes 'missing link'or, to borrow from the research fi eld of Genetics, as co-existing with Quality Teaching in a 'double helix' relationship. It is this latter description that the authors have chosen as most appropriately describing the results of the studies on which the book reports.