An experimental demonstration of the positive consequences of guiding students to conceptualize education as connection

Mesmin Destin*, Régine Debrosse, David M. Silverman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Educators often struggle to sustain students’ motivation during adolescence. Students may view school tasks as insignificant because learning, achievement, and success feel detached from valued social connections. Previous findings in the study of development demonstrate that young people derive meaning from key sources of social support and connection. Finding ways to link how students approach their educational goals to meaningful social connections may strengthen responses to daily learning opportunities with positive implications for achievement. Method: A randomized-controlled experiment and daily diary survey evaluated the consequences of guiding students to conceptualize educational pursuits as linked to their social connections. A group of ninth-grade students in the United States (N = 39; 58.97 % girls, 30.77 % boys, 2.56 % non-binary, 7.69 % did not disclose) were randomly assigned to one of two brief programs designed to cultivate goals and motivation. Results: Participants randomly assigned to a healthy achievement condition (including an emphasis on the importance of social support and connection as part of achievement and success) reported more productive responses to daily academic difficulty than participants in a standard motivation condition on a daily diary survey over one year after the program. This led to an indirect increase in actual daily support, which was associated with earning higher grades. Conclusions: The results suggest that a reconceptualization of education as an endeavor grounded in social connection would help keep students engaged in learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-33
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Adolescence
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Adolescence
  • Motivation
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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