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Ten Strategies to Promote Student Flourishing

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Current research identifies five main domains of human flourishing: psychological, social, contemplative, physical, and emotional. The strategies covered here enable instructors to employ effective teaching practices to promote their students’ flourishing in these domains.

The following strategies have been summarized from a longer version that includes specific examples; view or download the resource as a Google Doc.

1. Make your course accessible

Creating obstacles to success decreases students’ sense of social cohesion and self-efficacy. See "Designing an Accessible Course" for detailed strategies.

2. Foster community

Enabling social support, belonging, and collaborative contributions promotes social flourishing. See "Building Inclusive Community" for detailed strategies.

3. Encourage connection to personal values and purposes

Identifying the values and purposes of one’s activities enhances psychological flourishing. In addition to prompting students to reflect on and write about core personal values, you might encourage students to: 

  • Personalize the course to their interests and identities via contributing readings or leading discussions
  • Complete tasks with people not in the class 
  • Guide students in connecting to their goals in life

4. Connect the course to social betterment if possible

Feeling optimistic about society’s future enhances psychological and social flourishing. You can do this by:

  • Determine how the course topics might help generate solutions for current problems in society
  • Devise assignments that engage students with appreciating the magnitude and complexity of problems along with trying to make progress in solving them
  • Enable students to contribute to betterment projects and integrate community-engaged learning as a part of the course

5. Provide opportunities for making progress

Feeling capable and exhibiting mastery are important to psychological and emotional flourishing. When students are able to take small steps towards achieving a clear goal they may feel a positive sense of growth and progress. You can help by:

6. Provide opportunities for tracking progress

Recognizing progress towards one’s goals promotes self-reflection and a sense of self-efficacy. When students are engaged and see themselves as actively in control of their learning, they may feel more positive and confident. You can help by:

7. Acknowledge physical needs

Meeting the need for rest, nourishment, and movement is vital to physical flourishing. For example, you can build in frequent, short breaks during class time to permit movement and stretching, and share optional exercises, such as this 3-minute mindful breathing or this 10-minute chair yoga practice. You can also:

8. Honor emotions

Noticing one’s emotional states without judgment, and experiencing pleasure and interest, are important to emotional and psychological flourishing. Begin by familiarizing yourself with signs of student distress and steps you can take to help. You can help by:

  • Performing weekly check-ins with students. For example, have them contribute 1-3 words on how they are feeling, or upload a photo or meme that captures their current emotional state.
  • When you are feeling positive, do your best to convey that energy to students, and welcome levity and laughter into class interactions.
  • Get frequent feedback from students on their experience in the class, by using Anonymous responses in PollEverywhere through Canvas, for example.

9. Be explicit about trying to promote student flourishing

Educate students to identify and monitor their own flourishing, in your class and beyond. Connect students to Stanford resources on well-being. You can help by:

  • Formulating course policies that treat students as whole people with extracurricular lives. For example, provide multiple modes of engagement, make due dates flexible, or offer a fixed number of excused “wellness” absences from class.
  • Soliciting input from students on how the course can be designed and conducted to promote their flourishing.

10. Take care of yourself

The risk of burnout is higher for those in “helping professions” such as teaching. Looking after yourself—restoratively and proactively—is the best way to remain effective for your students. For example, you can: