January 2015 newsletter
read an article entitled “Making Hope Happen in the Classroom” by Shane
Lopez in Phi Delta Kappan. Lopez reports that only half of American children
are hopeful– that is, believe their future will be better than their present
and think they have the power to shape a better future.
“Hopeful thinking combines future
thinking with a sense of agency or efficacy,” says
Lopez. Studies have shown that a person’s positive expectations for the future
are tightly correlated with academic and life success. After controlling for
other variables (previous grades, IQ, psychological status), researchers have
found that hope boosts a student’s school achievement by 12. Lopez has found
that students who are hopeful about the future have three characteristics that
set them apart from students who are not:
• They are
excited about something in the future. “That one thing can be big or small,
novel or run-of-the-mill, close at hand or far in the future,” says Lopez, “as
long as it teaches them to look forward with positive expectations.” It can be
a weekly visit to the park, a family trip, a sporting event, a school dance.
This is part of a hopeful mindset that gets young people excited about the
future and their future selves. “They become more animated and this display of
positive emotions attracts attention and support from people who can help them
along the way.”
• Hopeful students have good school attendance.
Lopez and colleagues at Gallup studied student absenteeism and found a close
correlation between excellent attendance and hope.
students are engaged. They are psychologically invested in what is happening
around them and eager to get something out of classes and other activities.
Lopez goes on to describe three specific
strategies to increase students’ level of hope:
students goals that really matter to them. Nobody washes a rental car. For the
same reason, students don’t work hard on assignments they don’t own or find
meaningful. Students won’t get fired up about goals like raising reading scores
or graduation rates. But goals directly linked to having a good job and a happy
family can be highly motivational.
students to put hope into action. According to a 2011 OECD study, U.S. students
are more confident that they’ll graduate from high school and college than
students in any of the other countries studied. But only 60 percent of U.S.
students strongly believe they can implement strategies that will get them good
grades, according to the Gallup Student Poll. Lopez describes the Hope Camera
Project as an example of how to fill in the missing ingredients. Fifth and
sixth graders are given disposable cameras and over several months they
photograph and write about something that documents hope in their lives, with
the goal of presenting their best photograph and their edited essay in a gala
evening event. Students in the project over-came family strife, academic
struggles, and health problems to finish their work; it taught them to match
their will with their ways, think flexibly, and create alternative strategies
to reach their goals.
students how to make when/where plans. Studies have shown that students who
decide when and where they will work on and complete a project are three to
four times more likely to follow through than students whose action plans are
vague. Setting action triggers is straightforward, says Lopez. “Each time, give
a student an assignment or set a goal, help them choose the day and time
they’ll start working on it, and the place where they’ll work.” As we move
throughout the school year and in preparation for Student-Led Conferences in
June let’s work together to instill hope in our scholars!