Skip to main content

Dream It! Preliminary Evidence for an Educational Tool to Increase Children’s Optimistic Thinking

Abstract

Background

Optimistic thinking is a facet of social-emotional learning linked to better mental health and problem-solving in children; however, few educational tools exist to improve this important aspect of self-awareness.

Objective

To examine the effectiveness of an optimistic thinking tool with diverse students in an elementary school setting. Study hypotheses were that interacting with Dream It! A Playbook to Spark Your Awesomeness would improve children’s understanding of and ability to dream about their futures and increase their optimistic thinking.

Method

Using a non-randomized control group pretest–posttest design, fourth through sixth grade students (N = 111) participated in a total of nine facilitated class sessions: N = 60 children were assigned to the intervention group and N = 51 children were in the control group. The majority of participants were female (56%) with a mean age of 10.21 years (SD = .93). Mixed-methods pre- and post-intervention assessments were conducted at the first and last sessions with measures of dreaming (number and quality), optimistic thinking, hope, grit, and growth mindset.

Results

Children in the intervention group demonstrated significant changes in dreaming and grit compared to control participants, with medium to large effects. Children’s optimistic thinking, a vital component of social-emotional learning, significantly increased after interacting with an educational tool developed to teach them to dream about life goals.

Conclusion

The present study offers evidence that the Dream It! A Playbook to Spark Your Awesomeness is feasible for facilitation in an elementary school setting and has the potential to improve key social-emotional learning outcomes for children.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

References

  1. Bierman, K. L., Coie, J. D., Dodge, K. A., Greenberg, M. T., Lochman, J. E., McMahon, R. J., et al. (2010). The effects of a multiyear universal social-emotional learning program: The role of student and school characteristics. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78(2), 156. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0018607.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Boncu, A., Costea, I., & Minulescu, M. (2017). A meta-analytic study investigating the efficiency of socio-emotional learning programs on the development of children and adolescents. Romanian Journal of Psychology, 19(2), 35–41. https://doi.org/10.24913/rjap.19.2.02.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Brandon, C. M., Cunningham, E. G., & Frydenberg, E. (1999). Bright Ideas: A school-basedprogram teaching optimistic thinking skills in pre-adolescence. Journal of Psychologists and Counsellors in Schools, 9(1), 147–158. https://doi.org/10.1017/S103729110000306X.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Chan, D. W. (2012). Life satisfaction, happiness, and the growth mindset of healthy and unhealthy perfectionists among Hong Kong Chinese gifted students. Roeper Review, 34(4), 224–233. https://doi.org/10.1080/02783193.2012.715333.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Coelho, V., Marchante, M., & Sousa, V. (2016). Positive attitude program’s impact upon self-concept across childhood and adolescence. Revista de Psicodidáctica, 21(2), 261–280. https://doi.org/10.1387/RevPsicodidact.15129.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). (2012). 2013 CASEL guide: Effective social and emotional learning programs, preschool-elementary edition. Chicago: CASEL.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Cunningham, E. G., Brandon, C. M., & Frydenberg, E. (2002). Enhancing coping resources in early adolescence through a school-based program teaching optimistic thinking skills. Anxiety Stress and Coping, 15(4), 369–381. https://doi.org/10.1080/1061580021000056528.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Duckworth, A. L., & Quinn, P. D. (2009). Development and validation of the short grit scale (Grit-S). Journal of Personality Assessment, 91(2), 166–174. https://doi.org/10.1080/00223890802634290.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405–432. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01564.x.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Habayeb, S., Rich, B., & Alvord, M. K. (2017). Targeting heterogeneity and comorbidity in children with autism spectrum disorder through the Resilience Builder group therapy program. Child & Youth Care Forum, 46, 539–557. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10566-017-9394-1.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Haggerty, K., Elgin, J., & Woolley, A. (2011). Social-emotional learning assessment measures for middle school youth. Social Development Research Group. University of Washington: Raikes Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  15. IBM Corp. (2017). IBM SPSS Statistics for Macintosh, Version 25.0. Armonk, NY: IBM Corp.

  16. Kiviruusu, O., Björklund, K., Koskinen, H. L., Liski, A., Lindblom, J., Kuoppamäki, H., et al. (2016). Short-term effects of the “Together at School” intervention program on children’s socio-emotional skills: A cluster randomized controlled trial. BMC Psychology, 4(27), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-016-0133-4.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Myles-Pallister, J. D., Hassan, S., Rooney, R. M., & Kane, R. T. (2014). The efficacy of theenhanced Aussie Optimism Positive Thinking Skills Program in improving social and emotional learning in middle childhood. Frontiers in Psychology, 5(909), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00909.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Naglieri, J. A., LeBuffe, P. A., & Ross, K. M. (2013). Measuring resilience in children: From theory to practice. In S. Goldstein & R. Brooks (Eds.), Handbook of resilience in children (pp. 249–259). Boston, MA: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-3661-4_14.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  19. Nickerson, A. B., & Fishman, C. (2009). Convergent and divergent validity of the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment. School Psychology Quarterly, 24(1), 48–59. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0015147.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Panorama Education. (2015). Validity brief: Panorama Student Survey. Boston, MA: Author. Retrieved from https://go.panoramaed.com/hubfs/Panorama_January2019%20/Docs/validity-brief.pdf

  21. Payton, J., Weissberg, R. P., Durlak, J. A., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., Schellinger, K. B., et al. (2008). The positive impact of social and emotional learning for kindergarten to eighth-grade students: Findings from three scientific reviews. Chicago, IL: Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Reivich, K., Gillham, J. E., Chaplin, T. M., & Seligman, M. E. (2013). From helplessness to optimism: The role of resilience in treating and preventing depression in youth. In S. Goldstein & R. Brooks (Eds.), Handbook of resilience in children (pp. 201–214). Boston, MA: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-3661-4_14.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  23. Seligman, M. E. (2007). The optimistic child: A proven program to safeguard children against depression and build lifelong resilience. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Snyder, C. R., Hoza, B., Pelham, W. E., Rapoff, M., Ware, L., Danovsky, M., et al. (1997). The development and validation of the children’s hope scale. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 22(3), 399–421. https://doi.org/10.1093/jpepsy/22.3.399.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. Stoll, S. M. & Williams, S. E. (2018). Dream It! A playbook to spark your awesomeness. Washington, DC: Magination Press.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Watson, C. C., Rich, B. A., Sanchez, L., O’Brien, K., & Alvord, M. K. (2014). Preliminary study of resilience-based group therapy for improving the functioning of anxious children. Child & Youth Care Forum, 43, 269–286. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10566-013-9238-6.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Webster-Stratton, C., & Reid, M. J. (2004). Strengthening social and emotional competence in young children—The foundation for early school readiness and success: Incredible Years Classroom Social Skills and Problem-Solving Curriculum. Infants & Young Children, 17(2), 96–113.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. West, M. R., Buckley, K., Krachman, S. B., & Bookman, N. (2018). Development and implementation of student social-emotional surveys in the CORE Districts. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 55, 119–129. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appdev.2017.06.001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the undergraduate students who helped to facilitate the study intervention, and the elementary school students and staff who participated.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sara E. Williams.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Jacquez, F., Trott, C.D., Wren, A.R. et al. Dream It! Preliminary Evidence for an Educational Tool to Increase Children’s Optimistic Thinking. Child Youth Care Forum 49, 877–892 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10566-020-09561-6

Download citation

Keywords

  • Social-emotional learning
  • Optimistic thinking
  • Intervention
  • Children
  • Goal-setting