An important part of childhood is starting to dream and set goals about life. Thanks to more than 100 Parker Woods Montessori (PWM) students participating in a study, several undergraduate students at the University of Cincinnati (UC) have a better understanding of how a one workbook can be effective in helping children think about what they can accomplish.
The study came about through a relationship with Northside community member and author Scott Stoll, who wrote a children’s workbook (or playbook), Dream It! A Playbook to Spark Your Awesomeness with Dr. Sara E. Williams. The playbook contains various activities, games and brainstorming questions to help children between the ages of nine and 12 set goals and think optimistically.
Stoll and Williams reached out to Farrah Jacquez, associate professor of psychology at UC, to enlist her students’ help in executing a study on the book’s effectiveness in improving optimistic thinking. From there, the partnership with PWM was born.
About the Study
Starting at the beginning of the school year, 14 students in Professor Jacquez’ psychology class traveled to PWM to facilitate weekly 45-minute sessions in which they helped a group of PWM students work through the Dream It! playbook. The UC student facilitators and PWM students in the intervention group focused on a different Dream It! chapter each week.
UC students conducted various “pre-” and “post-” surveys and questionnaires to evaluate student and teacher perspectives around the effectiveness of the Dream It! playbook. Culminating the end of the study and the end of a semester of hard work, the UC students presented their findings to PWM students, faculty and PTO members.
The UC student facilitators were pleased to share that they had accomplished their goals as a group, along with a few informative and insightful findings:
- The number of dreams students had increased.
Students in the intervention group (who completed the playbook) wrote down more dreams in their post-playbook survey than in their pre-playbook survey.
The UC students noted that the quality of dreams improved, too. Students went from sharing simple “sleep” dreams to dreams about life goals. Both the control and intervention groups shared a majority of dreams that were academic- or career-related (graduating from college, becoming a doctor, etc.).
- Optimistic thinking, hope and growth-mindset improved overall.
Students in the intervention group displayed a statistically significant improvement in overall optimistic thinking from pre-playbook survey to post-playbook survey, showing that the playbook helped them develop a stronger growth mindset and more optimistic outlook.
- Teachers responded positively and enjoyed the experience.
Teachers noted the improvement in the culture of their classes that completed the playbook. They also highlighted the importance of the UC student facilitators being present each week, as they really connected well with the students to make it a meaningful experience.
The overall success of the study has Dream It! co-authors optimistic that more students — within the school, district and region — can benefit from the playbook.
“Research is done to make a difference in the community,” said Stoll. “This study gave the UC students the training they needed while providing a unique activity for the PWM students. We are really grateful that they were enthusiastic about their role in this project.”
PWM Principal Whitney Simmons shared how she pleased with how the content of Dream It! aligned with much of what the school does in its Advisory program.
“Having Advisory in our district is really beneficial for our students, as they start to brainstorm about dreams and goals for their lives,” said Simmons. “Our students are also exposed to concepts like perseverance and grit through our positive school culture, which is why I think many of them naturally gravitated toward the playbook.”
As for the students in attendance at the results presentation, it was clear that they enjoyed the experience and especially liked developing relationships with actual college students. All students had the chance to hug and say goodbye to their student facilitators before the end of the presentation.