Certificate in Future Oriented Learning

Trinity College Co-Ordinating Chaplain David McGillivray

Developing A Higher Sense Of Meaning And Purpose Among Year 12 Students

Meaning defined by Seligman “consists in belonging to and serving something that you believe is bigger than the self” (“Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being,” 2011) is an important aspect of well-being (Steger et al., 2006), it helps to build resilience, enables people to achieve more in school and even to live longer, satisfied lives.

Recent surveys in our schools shows there has and continues to be, a decline in resilience, students failing to meet their academic potential, and a significant rise of counselling for anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.

It is important therefore that we develop among our students a higher sense of meaning and purpose in their lives as a protective factor.(Kress et al., 2015)

The MLQ (Meaning of Life Questionnaire) as a valid quantitative instrument (Rose et al., 2017) and the setting of SMARTAR goals by students as a qualitative instrument will be used in a survey to take a baseline of students sense of meaning and purpose in their lives. After a short course designed to develop a higher sense of meaning and purpose the survey will be taken again to see any change in students’ sense of meaning in their lives.

Using Emily Esfahani Smith’s Four Pillars of a Meaningful life; Belonging, Purpose, Transcendence and Storytelling, craft a series of lessons for year 12 students aimed at developing these aspects of their lives. In small groups of their choosing (Belonging), students will design a goal using the SMARTAR principal (Purpose) to perform an act of kindness for the benefit of others (Transcendence) and reflect on the process and how they felt (Storytelling).

A sample of 64 students across 6 classes shows that after the intervention there was an increase in the total sense of meaning in purpose. Further research is required to confirm if there is a relationship between the sense of achievement, success in working as a team and satisfaction in the task and the improved sense of meaning and purpose in the students’ lives.