Gratitude Research Study (Northbrooks Secondary School)

14 October 2020
Research

In 2019, Northbrooks Secondary School embarked on a 10-week programme, in collaboration with Dr Imelda Santos Caleon, research scientist and co-programme Director of Lifelong Learning, Cognition and Well-being Research Programme, NIE, to investigate whether gratitude can improve student well-being. This is a pilot project with the Secondary One cohort then.

Dr Imelda and her team designed two packages, Self-Discovery and Gratitude, aimed at increasing students’ well-being through reflection and hands-on activities. Six Secondary One classes participated and the classes were split into two halves, with one half experiencing the gratitude package while the other half, being the control, experiencing the self-discovery package.

Gratitude trees created at the end of the gratitude package

Student writing a letter to his younger self as part of “Letter to Me” activity

Students choosing photos for their gratitude collages

Students sharing stories from their childhood in “Impactful Events” activity

The programme saw the following positive outcomes for our school:

1)    Improved Student Well-being

The programme exposed both teachers and students to practical skills of well-being through deeper understanding and learning about themselves and how to show gratitude. The Gratitude intervention was found effective in improving students’ gratitude level and disposition. The Self-discovery intervention was found effective in improving students’ disposition to develop resilience. Additionally, both the Gratitude and Self-discovery interventions were found effective in reducing perceived stress.

Impact of intervention on gratitude

Impact of intervention on resilience

Blue lines - Gratitude Intervention  |  Red lines - Self-discovery Intervention

2)    Improved Relationships

About 35 to 60% of the students perceived that their relationships with parents, teachers and classmates improved significantly after participating in the Gratitude intervention. Similar figures were reported in relation to the Self-discovery intervention (but just slightly lower on relatedness with classmates).

Improved relationships with parents, classmates & teachers


Blue lines - Gratitude Intervention  | Red lines - Self-discovery Intervention

The improvement in relationships between students and teachers could be attributed to the active participation of teachers during these interventions. Prior to the programme commencement, Dr Imelda facilitated both packages with the Secondary One Form Teachers. This allowed the teachers to experience the package first hand from the perspective of their students which improved the facilitation processes. Subsequently, the teachers were able to share their personal stories and reflections during the lessons which led to the students being more open to sharing their own reflections. This openness in sharing between the teachers and students and amongst the students helped to deepen the inter-personal relationships.

3)    Addressing Concerning Student Emotions & Behaviors

Student reflections at the end of each activity allowed teachers to uncover certain student emotions or behaviours that might be of concern. Teachers are then able to address the concerns with students immediately. Without such reflections, issues of students might have gone unsurfaced and unaddressed.

Due to the immense potential and value that has generated from this collaboration and the fact that this is aligned to the school’s strategic intent, the Nurturing Positivity Team has scaled up the project and springboard these Pos Ed efforts through customising the packages to all levels in the school in 2020.

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