Many schools accept that the overall health of students is an essential part of the academic success of children and teens, especially in light of the negative effects caused or exacerbated by the pandemic. We are committed to strengthening the mental health of our students.
But what if, at least once they reach middle school and high school, feeling happy isn’t as important to students as feeling fulfilled and confident?
a study Researchers at the University of Cambridge suggest that students with higher levels of eudaimonia (a sense of competence and purpose in life) also perform better academically in English and maths exams.
Tania Clark, who currently works for a youth violence prevention nonprofit, led the study while working on her doctorate in child and youth welfare.
“If there’s one thing this project has highlighted, it’s that we need to think more systematically about our education system and the role that things like purpose and meaning play in children’s development at different times. I think that’s what we need to do,” Clark said. , Senior Evaluation Manager at the Youth Fund.
Clark is This gave me an opportunity to research the topic. She said it was a controversial paper that argued that schools had to choose between meeting children’s academic needs and their welfare.
“A paper written by this education think tank suggests that internationally educators cannot focus on children’s well-being alongside academic achievement, and they argue that these two objectives are mutually exclusive. “I think he had the idea that it was,” Clark said. “So I wanted to investigate to what extent that is true, especially when we fully understand what happiness is.”
In his research, Clark breaks down overall happiness into two different dimensions. Life satisfaction (also called hedonia in research) generally refers to happiness.
But Clark says that’s only half the picture. The other half of happiness, eudaimonia, measures how well people feel they are functioning. She says it includes concepts such as fulfillment, self-confidence, and a sense of purpose in life.
Researchers surveyed just over 600 14- to 15-year-old students in the UK about their feelings about school and themselves.
“We found that the eudaimonic component of well-being is particularly salient for adolescents, as they are at a stage where they are discovering what it means to be themselves and their unique abilities. I think it’s obvious,’ and ability,” Clark said. “So it’s probably very important to think about the role that school plays in that developmental stage.”
Given research showing that eudaimonia is correlated with student academic success, educational systems that focus on increasing student well-being rather than eudaimonia may be more effective at increasing student academic outcomes. This suggests that there may be a lack of effective methods.
Clark says the importance of eudaimonia in students’ overall well-being is understudied, which is one of the reasons she started this research.
However, the importance of young people striving to carve out their own identities remains an important pillar of pop culture. The 1980s was a veritable renaissance of teen movies. It was a constant struggle to find oneself in a world where mean parents and difficult teachers seemed obsessed with forcing teenagers to fit into established molds.
Schools are where students spend most of their waking hours, but these environments are incidental to young people’s journeys toward self-actualization in their coming-of-age stories.
The five teenage characters in “The Breakfast Club” open up to each other during a Saturday detention session, during which their principal demands they write an essay about “who they think they are.” Peter Weir’s love letter to the humanities and eccentric teachers is called “Dead Poets Society,” not “Standardized Test Prep Society.”
One reason eudaimonia has been ignored may be that helping young people find purpose in life sounds like a complex and daunting endeavor. But that’s no reason to ignore it, Clark says.
“I think what’s really harmful to young people is focusing only on the hedonic side,” she says. “It risks focusing on positive thinking, which is harmful. It’s too simplistic to think, ‘Well, life has to be happy.'”
As part of Clark’s study, students were asked to complete a standardized “how they feel about themselves and their school” questionnaire. According to the report, statements related to eudaimonia asked people to rate statements about “feeling successful, confident, healthy, confident in yourself, and able to cope with challenges.” It is being
The description of life satisfaction measured “feeling energetic, enthusiastic, enjoying things, having a lot of fun, and not feeling bored.”
Students who reported high levels of eudaimonia also performed better on tests in both English and mathematics. Specifically, on the math exam, the highest scorer rated her eudaimonia 1.5 times higher than the lowest scorer.
Researchers found no such correlation between academic performance and life satisfaction.
Interestingly, the researchers found that although girls scored higher academically, they scored “significantly lower” in terms of happiness and eudaimonia.
Although this study found a positive relationship between eudaimonia and academic performance, the question remains whether that sense of self-confidence leads to students’ success in school, or vice versa.
Clark says more research is needed before scientists can say that one variable causes the other. She notes that her research is exploratory and has several limitations, including a gender-biased student sample and not enough female, non-binary, and transgender students. I’m emphasizing.
Nevertheless, she advocates for schools to start taking eudaimonia more seriously.
“Perhaps, in a crammed curriculum that leaves little time for teachers, allowing space for self-reflection and time for young people to reflect on their entire lives may be exactly what we need. ” she says.