Written by : Jim Gold 

Happier Students Make the Grade

If you want your kids to get good grades in school, a Harvard researcher says, make sure they're happy.

It helps, too, if you keep teachers happy, British researchers say.

Happy students tend to get better grades, says Christina Hinton, Ed.D., a Harvard Graduate School of Education neuroscientist and lecturer. She says her study also found what makes students happy: school culture and relationships that students form with their teachers and peers.

Happiness doesn't cause students to earn higher grades, Christina told the Deseret News. "Some students could be unhappy and still do well," she says. On average, "if you're happy you're more likely to do well."

Christina collaborated with the K-12 St. Andrew's Episcopal School, near Washington, D.C., where students took surveys about happiness and motivation. She compared result with data on students' grade point averages.

Among key findings:

  • Happiness is positively associated with intrinsic motivation (a personal drive to learn) for all students, and also with extrinsic motivation (outside sources like rewards, praise, or avoiding punishment) for students in grades K–3.
  • Happiness and standardized test scores did not seem to be related.
  • Happiness is positively associated with GPA for students in grades 4–12.

Teacher well-being also has a positive effect, helping send exam grades up 8 percent, according to a 2014 study from the Work Foundation at Lancaster University in England.

"Unlike other factors, such as the social class of students, the rate of pupil absence and the number of children with special educational needs, teacher health and well-being may be more amenable to intervention and change," researchers said.

"If schools want to support student well-being and achievement, they should take seriously nurturing positive relationships among teachers and students."

Jim Gold is a veteran journalist who splits his time between Seattle and the Bay Area.

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