Measuring and Promoting Hope in Schoolchildren

Authored by: Susana C. Marques , Shane J. Lopez , Sage Rose , Cecil Robinson

Handbook of Positive Psychology in Schools

Print publication date:  March  2014
Online publication date:  February  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415621854
eBook ISBN: 9780203106525
Adobe ISBN: 9781136258398




Snyder and colleagues (Snyder, Harris, et al., 1991) characterized hope as a human strength manifested in capacities to (a) clearly conceptualize goals (goals thinking), (b) develop the specific strategies to reach those goals (pathways thinking), and (c) initiate and sustain the motivation for using those strategies (agency thinking). Goals thinking is ubiquitous in youth but often untamed and unrefined. Pathways and agency thinking are both necessary, but neither by itself is sufficient to sustain successful goal pursuit. As such, pathways and agency thoughts are additive, reciprocal, and positively related, but they are not synonymous.

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Measuring and Promoting Hope in Schoolchildren

Hope Theory

Snyder and colleagues (Snyder, Harris, et al., 1991) characterized hope as a human strength manifested in capacities to (a) clearly conceptualize goals (goals thinking), (b) develop the specific strategies to reach those goals (pathways thinking), and (c) initiate and sustain the motivation for using those strategies (agency thinking). Goals thinking is ubiquitous in youth but often untamed and unrefined. Pathways and agency thinking are both necessary, but neither by itself is sufficient to sustain successful goal pursuit. As such, pathways and agency thoughts are additive, reciprocal, and positively related, but they are not synonymous.

Whereas other positive psychology constructs (such as goal theory, optimism, self-efficacy, and problem solving) give differentially weighted emphases to the goal itself or to the future-oriented agency or pathways-related processes, hope theory equally emphasizes all of these goal-pursuit components (Snyder, 1994). For detailed comparisons of the similarities and differences between hope theory and other theories (e.g., achievement motivation, flow, mindfulness, optimism, resiliency, self-esteem), see Snyder (1994).

According to hope theory, a goal can be anything that an individual desires to experience, create, get, do, or become. As such, a goal may be a significant, lifelong pursuit (e.g., developing a comprehensive theory of human motivation), or it may be mundane and brief (e.g., getting a ride to school). Goals also may vary in terms of having anywhere from very low to very high perceived probabilities of attainment. On this point, it should be noted that individuals reporting high levels of hope often prefer “stretch goals” that are slightly more difficult than previously attained goals.

High-hope as compared to low-hope individuals are more likely to develop alternative pathways, especially when the goals are important and when obstacles appear (Snyder, Harris et al., 1991). No matter how good the cognitive routing, however, pathways are useless without the associated agency-inducing cognitions (Snyder, Cheavens, & Michael, 1999). These agency thoughts are reflected in the positive self-talk that is exhibited by high-hope individuals (e.g., “I can do this” or “I will not give up”). High-hope people are sustained by their agency thinking when confronted with challenging situations or impediments (Snyder, 1994). Thus, high-hope more than low-hope people exhort themselves to “take the next step” or to take a long-range goal and separate it into steps (i.e., “stepping”).

Research demonstrates that hope is built on a foundation of contingency thinking (Snyder, 1994) and that it is socially primed (Snyder, Cheavens, & Sympson, 1997). For example, Marques, Pais-Ribeiro, and Lopez (2007a) identified a moderate relation between children’s hope and their parents’ in a sample of Portuguese students, which supports previous thinking about how caregivers foster hope development in children. Nevertheless, given the recent efforts in this area, further research is needed to investigate these process mechanisms (see Hoy, Suldo, & Mendez, 2013).

Measuring Hope

Hope can exist as a relatively stable personality disposition (i.e., a trait) or as a more temporary frame of mind (i.e., a state). Similarly, hopeful thought can occur at various levels of abstraction. For example, one can be hopeful about achieving goals in general (e.g., a personal trait), goals in a certain life domain (e.g., school), or one goal in particular.

Snyder, Hoza, and colleagues (1997) developed the Children’s Hope Scale (CHS) as a trait hope measure for children ages 7 through 15 years. The scale is composed of three agency and three pathways items. The CHS has demonstrated satisfactory (a) internal consistencies (overall alphas from .72 to .86), (b) test-retest reliabilities of .71 to .73 over 1 month and (c) convergent and discriminant validities. Furthermore, the scale has been used with (a) physically and psychologically healthy children from public schools, (b) boys diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, (c) children with various medical problems, (d) children under treatment for cancer or asthma, (e) child burn victims, (f) adolescents with sickle-cell disease, and (g) early adolescents exposed to violence (Snyder, Hoza, et al., 1997).

To measure the trait aspect of hope in adolescents (and adults) ages 15 and older, Snyder, Harris, and colleagues (1991) developed the Hope Scale (HS). This scale consists of four items measuring agency, four items measuring pathways, and four distracter items. Having been used with a wide range of samples, the Hope Scale has exhibited acceptable (a) internal consistency (overall alphas from .74 to .88, agency alphas of .70 to .84, and pathways alphas of .63 to .86), (b) test-retest reliabilities ranging from .85 for 3 weeks to .82 for 10 weeks, and (c) concurrent and discriminant validities.

The Gallup Student Poll (GSP; Gallup, 2009) has recently developed an online school-based measure of hope appropriate for student ages 10 to 18 years (for more information, see Findings from studies using this scale have demonstrated that half of American students are hopeful, meaning they have many future ideas and goals, cognitive strategies, and motivation to get the things done. The remaining half of students reported that they do not have the hope they need to succeed. These stuck (33%) or discouraged (17%) students may lack the motivation to pursue goals and often give up when facing obstacles because they cannot find alternative pathways or cannot get the support they need to overcome obstacles.

In the remainder of this chapter, we incorporate findings derived from these various measures to differentiate “high-hope” from “low-hope” children (i.e., those who score in the top or bottom third of hope scale distributions, respectively). In an absolute sense, however, it should be noted that the children who score around the mean of these self-report instruments are reporting fairly frequent hopeful thinking.

Research on Hope

Over the last 20 years, researchers have gained a clearer understanding of the relationships between hope and important aspects of students’ lives. In this section, we address areas that are most salient to the activities of school professionals.

Views About the Self and the Future

Correlational findings indicate that a child’s higher hopeful thinking is positively associated with perceived competence and self-worth (Marques, Pais-Ribeiro, & Lopez, 2009) and negatively associated with symptoms of depression (Snyder, Hoza, et al., 1997). Indeed, researchers have reported that very high-hope students (upper 10% of the distribution) differ from students with average (middle 25%) and very low hope (bottom 10%) on self-esteem, with significant higher self-esteem levels for the very high-hope group (Marques, Lopez, Fontaine, Coimbra, & Mitchell, in press). Also, lower hope predicts more depressive symptoms (Kwon, 2000), and it does so independently of appraisals and other coping strategies (Chang & DeSimone, 2001). Moreover, results from a recent meta-analysis found that hope accounted for 23% of the strength of student assets, making its greatest contributions to self-worth, optimism, and life satisfaction (Lopez, Reichard, Marques, & Dollwet, in press). Additional evidence suggests that high-hope children and adolescents (Snyder, Hoza, et al., 1997) view themselves in a favorable light and have slight positive self-referential allusions.

Regarding views about the future, those with high hope typically are more optimistic, they focus on success when pursuing goals, they develop many life goals, and they perceive themselves as being capable of solving problems that may arise (Snyder, Hoza, et al., 1997). Likewise, higher hope is linked closely to having a greater perceived purpose in life (Feldman & Snyder, 2005).

Satisfaction With Life and Well-Being

Accumulating evidence suggests that hope is related to life satisfaction and well-being. Research suggests that hope scores are correlated negatively with measures of internalizing and externalizing behavior problems, indicators of psychological distress, and school maladjustment (e.g., Gilman, Dooley, & Florell, 2006). Hope in students is strongly correlated (both cross-sectionally and longitudinally 1 and 2 years later) with life satisfaction and mental health (Marques, Pais-Ribeiro, & Lopez, 2007b, 2011a). Moreover, children (Merkas & Brajsa-Zganec, 2011) and adolescents (Gilman et al., 2006; Marques, Lopez, & Mitchell, 2013) with very high hope were more satisfied with their lives and reported better mental health when compared to children with low hope. Finally, hope explained 20% of the magnitude of student liabilities, doing a better job of explaining students’ depression than general negative affect (Lopez et al., in press).

Spirituality and Religiosity

There remains a paucity of research examining hope and its relations with spirituality and religiosity. Initial findings with Portuguese adolescents (Marques et al., 2013) indicated that hope is moderately correlated with spirituality but has weak relations with religious practice (as measured by attendance at a place of worship). These associations were stable 6 months and 1 year later. Nevertheless, additional research among children and adolescents from different countries is clearly needed (including different indicators of religiosity).

Physical Health

Research suggests that hope may play a role in student health. Berg, Rapoff, Snyder, and Belmont (2007) investigated the relation between hope and adherence to a daily inhaled steroid regimen among 48 asthma patients ages 8 to 12. A multivariate model with children’s hope level entered in the second step predicted adherence. No other demographic or psychosocial variables were significant predictors of adherence. These results support hope as a significant predictor of student adherence to prescribed medication. To explain hope’s role in student health perceptions, low-hope individuals may not believe their medication will provide a pathway to their goals of improved health; or it may be that taking the medication is difficult or uncomfortable, thus affecting their agency beliefs (Snyder, 2000). These findings highlight the need to attend to psychosocial predictors of adherence, specifically hope, and might help practitioners target these factors in their efforts to increase adherence among pediatric asthma patients.

Similarly, research on adolescents with diabetes showed that those with higher hope were more likely to adhere to a medical regimen necessary for glycemic control (Lloyd, Cantell, Pacaud, Crawford, & Dewey, 2009). Past research (Lewis & Kliewer, 1996) on children with sickle-cell disease found that those who had the disease but maintained high hope perceptions along with active coping strategies were less likely to experience the negative effects of anxiety. Hope can provide benefits for those struggling with their health, but it can also facilitate healthy behaviors. At the college level, students with high hope were less likely to binge drink and smoke, even when controlling for demographics (Berg, Ritschel, Swan, An, & Ahluwalia, 2011). Further, these high-hope students were more likely to restrict fat in their diet and they engaged in more frequent exercise than low-hope students.

Academic Achievement

Students with low hope experience high anxiety, especially in competitive, test-taking situations. Such anxiety presumably reflects that such students often do not use feedback from failure experiences in an adaptive manner so as to improve their future performances (Onwuegbuzie & Snyder, 2000). That is, rather than using such feedback constructively, low-hope individuals are prone to self-doubt and negative ruminations that interfere with attending to the appropriate cues for both inputting (i.e., studying) and outputting information (i.e., test taking).

High-hope students, on the other hand, do not derogate their abilities when they fail, and they do not let failures affect their self-worth over time. In this regard, the high-hope students make adaptive attributions that the failure feedback merely means that they did not try hard enough in a given instance, or that they did not identify the correct studying or test-taking strategies. The emphases on strategies and effort attributions may explain, in part, why hope is not significantly related to native intelligence (Snyder, McDermott, Cook, & Rapoff, 2002) but instead is related consistently to academic achievement.

Higher levels of hope are related to greater reported scholastic and social competence, as well as to elevated creativity (Onwuegbuzie, 1999). Not surprisingly, high-hope students reported significantly greater academic (and interpersonal) satisfaction than their low-hope counterparts (Chang, 1998), and extremely high-hope students (top 10%) reported greater academic achievement (Marques et al., 2013) and grade point average (Gilman et al., 2006) than average and low-hope students. Given hope’s relation with perceived competence and adaptive coping strategies, it follows that high-hope middle school children have better scores on achievement tests (Marques, Pais-Ribeiro, & Lopez, 2011b; Snyder, Hoza et al., 1997), and that high-hope high school (Snyder, Harris et al., 1991) and beginning college students (e.g., Day, Hanson, Maltby, Proctor, & Wood, 2010) have higher overall grade point averages (and dropout less often; see Worrell & Hale, 2001). In these studies, the predictive power of hope remained significant even when controlling for life satisfaction, self-esteem, intelligence, prior grades, personality, and entrance examination scores. Most recently, Lopez and colleagues (in press) found in a meta-analysis that the correlation effect between hope and academic achievement represents a 12% gain in performance.

Identifying how hope differs across domains can help identify weak academic areas. However, some students may experience lower hope in regard to overall academic achievement. For example, Seirup and Rose (2011) investigated the potential benefits of a mandatory intervention course targeting undergraduates placed on academic probation. The authors found that students with higher hope completed the semester with significantly higher GPAs than those with low hope, even when controlling for entering GPAs. The authors speculated that higher-hope students internalized more of the positive strategies offered by the course and effectively applied them to their academic circumstances.

Athletic Achievement

Higher hope has been positively related to superior athletic (and academic) performances among student athletes (Curry, Maniar, Sondag, & Sandstedt, 1999; Curry, Snyder, Cook, Ruby, & Rehm, 1997), even after statistically controlling for variance related to their natural athletic abilities. For example, Curry and colleagues (1997) reported that high-hope student athletes performed significantly better in their track and field events than their low-hope counterparts, with trait and state hope scale scores together accounting for 56% of the variance in subsequent track performances.

Curry and colleagues (1999) examined the efficacy of a semester-long academic class aimed to raise students’ levels of hope. After taking this class, students have increased confidence related to their athletic ability, academic achievement, and self-esteem. These gains were retained for at least a year after completion of the athlete class intervention. Also, high- as compared to low-hope children were less likely to consider quitting their sports (Brown, Curry, Hagstrom, & Sandstedt, 1999).

Interpersonal Relationships

When hopeful thinking is stymied, interpersonal struggles may result. For instance, ruminations block adaptive goal-related thinking and cause increased frustration and aggression against others (Collins & Bell, 1997; Snyder, 1994). In addition, the interpersonal problems of others can translate into lowered hope for children. For example, children who have witnessed family members or friends who have been victims of interpersonal violence have shown lower levels of hope than children who have not witnessed such violence (Hinton-Nelson, Roberts, & Snyder, 1996). Conversely, higher hope has been correlated positively with social competence (Barnum, Snyder, Rapoff, Mani, & Thompson, 1998), pleasure in getting to know others, enjoyment in frequent interpersonal interactions (Snyder, Hoza, et al., 1997), and interest in the goal pursuits of others (Snyder et al., 1997). Recent research has found that children with high hope, when compared to children with low hope, reported greater support from others and higher levels of family cohesion (Merkas & Brajsa-Zganec, 2011).

Individual Differences Related to Sex and Race

The findings consistently reveal no differences in hope between girls and boys or young women and men. Further, the differences in the hope scores of children and young adults across ethnic groups have been examined, and it appears that while not statistically significant, Caucasians tend to report fewer obstacles (e.g., oppression, prejudice) in their lives than their ethnic-minority counterparts. However, minority groups have been shown to produce higher average hope scores (see McDermott et al., 1997; Munoz-Dunbar, 1993) and higher average levels of agency thinking (Chang & Banks, 2007) than Caucasians.

To date, few studies have examined the relative levels of hope among gifted students or students with learning disorders or physical disabilities, necessitating additional research among these populations.

Enhancing Hope in Students

Given the compendium of findings described earlier, we suggest that school-based psychologists consider giving the CHS to younger children and the HS to those who are age 16 and older. Although these scales have been used mostly for research, their consistently high reliabilities and validation support their use with students in actual, applied school settings. In this regard, we suggest that attention be given to the levels of the specific agency and pathways scores. For example, it may be that a student has a full low-hope pattern (i.e., low agency and low pathways scores); or, more happily, the student may have the full high-hope pattern (i.e., high agency and high pathways), either of which correlates with a variety of academic and health outcomes. Additionally, the student may have a mixed pattern of high agency/low pathways or low agency/high pathways. In these mixed patterns, attention needs to turn to raising the particular hope component that is low.

Students with the lowest levels of hope tend to benefit most from hope interventions (Bouwkamp, 2001); however, our research shows that virtually all students raise their hope levels when taking part in school hope programs (Lopez, Bouwkamp, Edwards, & Teramoto Pedrotti, 2000; Marques, Lopez, & Pais-Ribeiro, 2011). That is to say, mental health and education professionals may want to develop group-based approaches for raising the hopeful thinking of all students, irrespective of their levels of trait or school-related hope. Likewise, for students who are identified as having very low levels of hope, special approaches may be tailored to raise their hopeful thinking. See Table 3.1 for a list of steps to enhance hope in students.

Besides significant increases in hope, there is evidence to suggest that hope-based interventions can produce additional benefits. For example, in comparison to a control group, Marques, Lopez, and colleagues (2011) found that middle school students who participated in a brief hope-based intervention reported significantly higher increases in levels of hope, self-worth, and life satisfaction at both 6 months and 18 months postintervention. Also, Feldman and Dreher (2012) found that college students who participated in a 90-minute intervention to increase their hopeful goal-directed thinking reported significant increases in measures of hope, life purpose, vocational calling, and greater progress on a self-nominated goal relative in comparison to a control group.

In applying hope theory to work in the schools, we aggregate our suggestions into three categories—those involving goals, pathways, and agency. These suggestions, which we discuss next, can be applied in individual or group settings. See Snyder and colleagues (2002) for more detailed information about imparting goal setting, pathways, and agency thinking to students.

Table 3.1   Steps to Enhancing Hope in Students

  1. Administration of the Children’s or Adult Hope Scale (trait)—The first step in this process is to have the student complete the appropriate measure of hope. The psychologist will then tally the total score and compute subscale scores for both pathway and agency.
  2. Learning about Hope—Once a baseline hope score is determined, the psychologist can then discuss hope theory with the student and its relevance to the change process and to positive outcomes.
  3. Structuring Hope for the Student—In this step, the student will create a list of important life components, determine which areas are most important, and discuss the level of satisfaction within those areas.
  4. Creating Positive and Specific Goals—Using the important life components identified above, the student and psychologist work together to create workable goals that are both positive and specific. These goals should be salient to the student and attainable. Additionally, the student will develop multiple pathways for each goal and identify agency thoughts for each goal.
  5. Practice Makes Perfect—Once the student and psychologist have agreed upon these goals, the student should visualize and verbalize the steps to reach the goals. With this practice, the student and psychologist can collaborate on the most effective pathways and the agency behind the goals.
  6. Checking In—Students will incorporate these goals, pathways, and agency into their lives and report back to the psychologist on the process of goal attainment. Again, collaboration can occur to adjust or modify any disparities in actions or thinking that may hinder the successful achievement of their desired goals.
  7. Review and Recycle—This process is cyclical and requires continual assessment by both the student and the psychologist. Once the student has grasped the concepts of hope theory, however, the student can then assume the bulk of responsibility in the implementation of hope theory to unique life experiences.

Helping Students to Set Goals

The foundation of imparting hope rests on helping students set goals. The goals, of course, must be calibrated to the student’s age and specific circumstances.

If the school-based psychologist first gives instruments that measure values, interests, and abilities, then specific goals can be designed for each given student. Likewise, the student can be asked about recent important goals that are quite meaningful and pleasurable. These recent activities then may be used to generate an appropriate future goal. Once the student, with the help of the mental health or education professional, has produced a list of goals, that student then should rank the importance of these goals. In this process, the student learns important skills about how to prioritize goals. Some students, particularly those low in hope, do not prioritize their goals (Snyder et al., 2005); instead, they have the maladaptive practice of impulsively wanting to go after any or all goals that come to their minds.

Assuming students have been helped to establish desired goals, the next step is to teach them how to set clear markers for such goals. These markers enable the students to track progress toward the goals. A common goal, but one in our view that is quite counterproductive, is the vague “getting good grades.” This and similar goals are sufficiently lacking in clarity that the student cannot know when they are attained (Pennebaker, 1989) and are more difficult to reach than well-specified goals (Emmons, 1992). Thus, we advocate concrete markers such as “to study an hour each day in preparation for my next biology exam.” With this latter goal, students not only can tell when they have reached it, but they also can experience a sense of success.

Another important aspect of helping students is to encourage them to establish approach goals in which they try to move toward getting something accomplished. This is in contrast to avoidance goals, in which students try to prevent something from happening (Snyder, Feldman, Taylor, Schroeder, & Adams III, 2000). We have found that high-hope students are more likely to use approach goals in their lives, whereas low-hope students tend to use avoidance goals. Thus, students should be helped to abandon avoidance goal setting and to embrace the more productive approach goal setting (Snyder et al., 2002).

High-hope people also appear to be interested in other people’s goals in addition to their own. Accordingly, we see advantages in instructing students to think in terms of “we” goals and their own “me” goals (Snyder, Cheavens, & Sympson, 1997). For example, encouraging students to help each other on difficult math problems can create a sense of shared accomplishment while deemphasizing competition. This has the benefit of helping students to get along with their peers, and it makes for easier and more fulfilling interpersonal transactions.

Helping Students to Develop Pathways Thinking

Perhaps the most common strategy for enhancing pathways thinking is to help students break down large goals into smaller subgoals. The idea of such “stepping” is to take a long-range goal and separate it into steps that are undertaken in a logical, one-at-a-time sequence. Low-hope students tend to have the greatest difficulty in formulating subgoals (Snyder, Cheavens, & Sympson, 1997). They often hold on to counterproductive and inaccurate beliefs that goals are to be undertaken in an “all at once” manner. Likewise, low-hope students may not have been given much instruction by their caregivers, teachers, or other adult figures in the planning process more generally. Such planning can be learned, however, and with practice in “stepping,” students can gain confidence in the fact that they can form subgoals to any of the major goals in their lives.

Perhaps a student’s deficiency is not in stepping per se but rather involves difficulty in their identifying several routes to a desired goal. Blockage to desired goals happens frequently in life and, lacking alternative pathways to those goals, a student can become very dejected and give up. This may explain, in part, the previous research findings on low-hope students’ high probabilities of dropping out of school (Snyder, Shorey, Cheavens et al., 2002). Thus, we advocate teaching students to have several routes to their desired goals—even before they set out to reach their goals. Likewise, students need to learn that if one pathway does not work, they then have other routes to try.

Additionally, it is crucial for the production of future pathways—as well as for the maintenance of agency—that students learn not to attribute a blockage to a perceived lack of talent. Instead, we believe that a more productive attribution when encountering impediments is to think of that information as identifying the path that does not work— thereby helping one to search productively for another route that may work.

Helping Students to Enhance Their Agency

Although it may seem obvious that students would select goals that are important to them, such goals actually may reflect those imposed by their peers, parents, or teachers. As such, the student does not obtain an accompanying sense of motivation in pursuing these imposed goals. Related to this point, when students lack personal goals that fill their needs, their intrinsic motivations and performances are undermined (Conti, 2000). Thus, goals that are built on internal, personal standards are more energizing than those based on external standards.

Helping students to set “stretch” goals also is invigorating for them. These “stretch” goals are based on a child or adolescent’s previous performances and personally established more complex goals. Stretch goals thus can enhance intrinsic motivation and perseverance when progress is hindered.

Often individuals do not realize the impact their self-talk can have on their goal-attaining abilities. Having students keep a diary of their ongoing self-talk (via a small notebook or audio recorder) can be helpful in determining if their internal dialogues are high or low in agency. We would suggest that the students who have low-hope internal dialogues be taught to dispute their negative, hypercritical self-talk. Emphasize to such students how they can replace the ongoing self-criticism with more realistic, positive, and productive thoughts. This approach requires repeated practice before it begins to work, so it is important to inform students of this fact so as to lessen their needless discouragement.

Hopeful children often draw upon their own memories of positive experiences to keep them buoyant during difficult times. In this way, they tell themselves their own uplifting stories, or they create their own positive personal narratives (Snyder et al., 2002). In contrast, low-hope children may not have a base of positive memories to sustain them. Telling them stories and providing them books that portray how other children have succeeded or overcome adversity can give low-hope children a model on which to begin building their own sense of agency. For suggested children’s books, listed by specific hope-related topics (e.g., adoption, alcohol, anger, arguing, attachment, communication, confidence, crying, and death), we refer the reader to the appendices in The Psychology of Hope: You Can Get There From Here (Snyder, 1994) and Hope for the Journey: Helping Children Through the Good Times and Bad (Snyder et al., 2002) and to Table 3.2, which summarizes daily strategies that can be used to increase hopeful thinking.

Enhancing Hope in Teachers

Just as young children develop hope through learning to trust in the predictability of cause-and-effect interactions with parents and caregivers, so too do schoolchildren build hope through learning to trust in the ordered predictability and consistency of their interactions with their teachers. By being firm, fair, and consistent, teachers engender hope among their students. Along with such order, we believe that the teacher needs to establish an atmosphere in which students are responsible for their actions. This is not to suggest that total obedience to authority is necessary or even desirable but rather that students must be held to reasonably high standards.

With order and responsibility having been established, a teacher then can plant the seeds of trust in the classroom. Whether it is in grade school or junior and senior high school, trust opens the doors to the establishment of growth-inducing stretch goals wherein students build upon previous knowledge and insights.

High-hope teachers are very clear about their objectives, both in the sense of how to master the material in each learning unit and how to attain good grades. Moreover, these teachers take care to convey these objectives to their students (Snyder, Lopez, Shorey,

Table 3.2   Checklist for Enhancing Pathways and Agency in Students



  • Break a long-range goal into steps or subgoals.
  • Begin your pursuit of a distant goal by concentrating on the first subgoal.
  • Practice making different routes to your goals and select the best one.
  • Mentally rehearse scripts for what you would do should you encounter a blockage.
  • If you need a new skill to reach your goal, learn it.
  • Cultivate two-way friendships in which you can give and get advice.


  • Think you can reach your big goals all at once.
  • Be too hurried in producing routes to your goals.
  • Be rushed to select the best or first route to your goal.
  • Overthink with the idea of finding one perfect route to your goal.
  • Conclude you are lacking in talent or no good when initial strategy fails.
  • Get into friendships in which you are praised for not coming up with solutions to your problems.



  • Tell yourself that you have chosen the goal, so it is your job to go after it.
  • Learn to talk to yourself in positive voices (e.g., I can do this!).
  • Recall previous successful goal pursuits, particularly when in a jam.
  • Be able to laugh at yourself, especially if you encounter some impediment to your goal pursuits.
  • Find a substitute goal when the original goal is blocked solidly.
  • Enjoy the process of getting to your goals and do not focus only on the final attainment.


  • Allow yourself to be surprised repeatedly by roadblocks that appear in your life.
  • Try to squelch totally any internal put-down thoughts because this may only make them stronger.
  • Get impatient if your willful thinking doesn’t increase quickly.
  • Conclude that things never will change, especially if you are down.
  • Engage in self-pity when faced with adversity.
  • Stick to a blocked goal when it is truly blocked.
  • Constantly ask yourself how are doing to evaluate your progress toward a goal.

Rand, & Feldman, 2003). This may entail having to reinforce any written instructions orally. When goals are made concrete and understandable and are broken down into subgoals, both the teachers and students will be more likely to see growth. Likewise, we would suggest that school psychologists should work with teachers to focus on long-range as opposed to short-term goals.

Beyond setting clear and specific educational goals, hopeful teachers emphasize preparation and planning. Accordingly, learning tasks should be organized in an easily comprehended format. It also is helpful to devise alternate exercises for use if a primary approach does not work. No matter what the exercise, however, teachers should avoid placing an overemphasis on “winning.” Instead, attempts should be made to create an atmosphere in which students are more concerned with expending effort and mastering the information than with a sole focus on obtaining good outcomes (e.g., high grades or stellar athletic records; Dweck, 1999). This atmosphere is encouraged through a give-and-take process between teachers and students.

We believe that school-based psychologists are well positioned in school structures to be vigilant for the signs of teacher burnout and the loss of personal hopes that are all too common for teachers and coaches (Snyder et al., 2002). To reach this objective, teachers should be encouraged to remain engaged and invested in pursuing their own important interests and life goals outside of the classroom.

Ripples of Hope in Today’s Schools

School-based psychologists can maximize the benefits of the ripple effects of hope in students and teachers through consultation and direct interventions (as discussed previously). Psychologists, in collaboration with the other professionals in the school, also can raise hope in a school building or a school district by facilitating the hope contagions that naturally occur through individual or group achievements. In this section, we share some ideas about maximizing hopeful thinking in school contexts.

The elimination of various forms of “barriers” is essential for spreading hope in each educational community. That is, through assessment and consultation, psychologists can identify the impediments that may be hindering students’ academic performance and growth (e.g., learning problems, behavioral problems); moreover, they may generate alternate pathways for circumventing such obstacles. Additionally, psychologists may talk with students, teachers, coaches, and staff members to find any physical or psychological barriers that they may be experiencing. Included in such barriers would be schedule problems, difficulties stemming from the physical layout of the facilities, lack of resources, parental disinterest, stressful societal events, and health-related epidemics.

Facilitating goal setting also is part of a psychologist’s acumen. Hope can be promoted by connecting one student’s goal (e.g., a child with behavior problems who wants to learn how to play chess) with another student’s goal (e.g., a socially awkward student who is good at chess but likes working one on one). We would encourage psychologists to foster interdependence among diverse sets of students, much in the spirit of Aronson’s “jigsaw” approach. Within the jigsaw cooperative learning technique, students are divided into diverse groups in which each member of a group receives a portion of material to be learned, which must then be taught to group members. Within each group, all students are dependent on one another and each student is considered an expert on some aspect of the material (Aronson, Bridgeman, & Geffner, 1978; see Internet site of In this regard, hope appears to be a cooperation-linked concept by its very nature, and efforts repeatedly should be made to facilitate such linkages. Psychologists also can help groups of students or members of an Individual Education Program team set common, attainable goals. The pursuit of shared goals can positively galvanize a group. In this sense, team activities often have inherent hope-inducing repercussions for their participants. Likewise, team activities engendering school pride, when not taken to an extreme, can produce hope.

School-based psychologists who are facile at eliminating barriers and are committed to helping students and teachers pursue meaningful goals become models of healthy goal pursuit. Often, however, the sheer number of institutional obstacles may limit the time that psychologists spend in being hopeful models. Everyone’s hopes can grow more easily, however, when there are common goals aimed at lessening the number and magnitude of obstacles in school environments. As key facilitators in this process, we view psychologists as “barrier busters” who help make the attainment of a variety of educational goals more likely in our schools.


In this chapter, we presented the fundamentals of hope theory to our school-based psychology colleagues. It probably is accurate to say that engendering hope already is a part of what school-based psychologists do. As such, the present hope theory ideas may help psychologists do an even better job of supporting schools’ efforts into arenas in which meaningful goals are set, where the parents, teachers, and students know how to reach those goals, and where everyone involved has the requisite motivations to try hard. Hopeful thinking can empower and guide a lifetime of learning, and psychologists help keep this lesson alive.


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Chapter Summary: Hope

  • Hope is conceptualized as a cognitive construct, which reflects people’s motivation and capacity to strive toward personally relevant goals.
  • Hope in students predicts many important outcomes, from physical and mental health to academic and athletic success.
  • Teachers play an important role in children’s perceptions about their competences to achieve goals and to cope with obstacles that can arise.
  • Students’ hope is malleable to change through intentional efforts.
  • The school is an ideal place to work hope by integrating hope into curriculum or doing separate and regular hope-enhancing group sessions.

Suggested Readings: Hope

Marques, S. C. , Lopez, S. J. , & Pais-Ribeiro, J. L. (2011). “Building Hope for the Future”—A program to foster strengths in middle-school students. Journal of Happiness Studies, 12, 139–152.

This study examined the effectiveness of hope-based intervention in middle school students. Results suggest that a brief hope intervention can increase psychological strengths, and participants continue to benefit up to 1 year and 6 months later.

Snyder, C. R. (Ed.). (2000). Handbook of hope: Theory, measures, and applications. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

This book presents a comprehensive overview of the psychological inquiry into hope, including its measurement, development, how its loss is associated with specific clinical disorders, and therapeutic approaches that can help instill hope in those who have lost theirs. A final section discusses how the use of hope can make one a better coach, teacher, or parent.

Snyder, C. R. (2002). Hope theory: Rainbows in the mind. Psychological Inquiry, 13, 249–275.

In this article, hope theory is compared to theories of learned optimism, optimism, self-efficacy, and self-esteem. Higher hope consistently is related to better outcomes in several life arenas. Processes that lessen hope in children and adults are reviewed.

Snyder, C. R. , Harris, C. , Anderson, J. R. , Holleran, S. A. , Irving, L. M. , Sigmon, S. T. , … Harney, P. (1991). The will and the ways: Development and validation of an individual-differences measure of hope. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 570–585.

This article examines the development and the psychometric properties of the Adult Hope Scale.

Snyder, C. R. , Hoza, B. , Pelham, W. E. , Rapoff, M. , Ware, L. , Danovsky, M. , … Stahl, K. J. (1997). The development and validation of the Children’s Hope Scale. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 22, 399–421.

This article examines the development and the psychometric properties of the Children Hope Scale.

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