Healthy Mental States Influence Academic Success

Demographic factors like race and income have long been linked to academic success. But now, results of a recent Gallup poll are adding a new, if not unsurprising, dynamic: A student’s emotional state can be indicative of his educational achievement. The results, based on responses from close to a million fifth-through-twelfth graders from 2009 to 2011, suggest that hope accounts for up to 13 percent of the variance in students’ academic success.

Alongside hope, (which, for the purpose of the study, has been defined as a student’s belief that “the future will be better than the present, and that [he] has the power to make it so”), engagement and well-being are also integral pieces of scholastic success. About two-thirds of students report being engaged in learning (defined as feeling “safe, important and acknowledged”), but the number drops off around middle school. At this time, adolescents say they are “not known, not valued, not recognized” the same way they were in previous years. Similarly, two-thirds of students say they have a high well-being, which is the way they think about and experience their lives.

To sum up these findings, Shane Lopez, senior scientist at Gallup, notes that what the three indicators have in common is positive emotion, or, as he calls it, “joy juice”.

Click here for more information about this study, which continues in fall 2012.

Teachers and parents: What do you do to maintain healthy mentalities in your students?