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One year ago, St. Andrew’s students took part in a research study that their peers and teachers had a hand in creating. Working in partnership with researchers from Harvard Graduate School of Education that lead Research Schools International, The Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning launched a study to discover how student happiness impacts motivation and academic achievement.

Now, the mainstream media is paying attention to the results of the study. Time Magazine highlighted it in their education section in a piece written by Dr. Christina Hinton and Lauren Schiller of Research Schools International, which connects researchers at Harvard Graduate School of Education with schools that value an innovative “research school” model. Schools like St. Andrew’s, which is one of just eight schools in the world to be invited to be part of Research Schools International.

The central questions of the study were: 1) How does happiness shape motivation and academic achievement at St. Andrew’s?; and 2) Which school factors support student happiness? Teachers and administrators at St. Andrew’s have long believed that happier students make for better students. That’s the reason those questions were selected by St. Andrew’s teachers as the first ones to ask as members of Research Schools International. Researchers from Harvard Graduate School of Education helped shape the questionnaire that was asked of the St. Andrew’s K-12 student body of which 94% (435 students) took part.

Results of the study revealed that, on average, students who reported being happier had higher grades. Specifically, a statistically significant correlation was found between happiness and students’ GPA from elementary school through high school. The study also found that the quality of students’ relationships with teachers and peers were a good predictor of their happiness.

“This research validates what so many teachers at St. Andrew’s intuitively knew, and now we have the data to affirm it,” said Glenn Whitman, Director of The Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning and a national thought-leader on implementing neuroeducational research in the classroom. “The most effective environment for student learning is one where they are both happy and challenged.”

“Research shows that the best predictor of happiness is not income, gender religion or even health, but rather relationships,” said Dr. Hinton, lead researcher on the study. “St. Andrew’s provides a nurturing community that teaches students to build caring, supportive relationships. There is nothing more essential to students’ well being and happiness than this.”

Dr. Hinton will be visiting St. Andrew’s on September 2 and 3 as The Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning continues its research partnership with Research Schools International. Join us on September 3 for a presentation by Dr. Christina Hinton. The presentation will be held at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School from 6:30-7:30.