5 ways to help students develop a sense of purpose


5 ways to help students develop a sense of purpose

What is having ‘a sense of purpose?’. You can find a longer answer to this question here, but in essence, it is all about what you believe in, what you value in life, and what motivates you. It’s the drive behind wanting to achieve and have a satisfying future, which makes it a very valuable asset for students.

Research suggests that students with a strong sense of purpose have:

  • Higher engagement in academic activities
  • More efficient study habits
  • Higher success and satisfaction with their studies.

With such meaningful effects, it seems important that we should try to develop a sense of purpose in our students. How does one go about doing this? We’ve read the research and put together 5 tips for how teachers can help to develop their students’ sense of purpose.

Cultivate curiosity

To help students discover what they’re interested in and what motivates them, teachers can focus on cultivating curiosity in their classes. They can do this by exposing students to a variety of topics and walks of life in the classroom. When teachers notice students excelling in a certain area, they should point this out to them. Inspire awe and encourage students to explore where their passions lie, and where they want to make a difference.

Encourage self-reflection

Reflecting on your journey so far and where you want to go next is key to developing a sense of purpose. Students should question themselves about what makes them happy, what they’re most willing to put effort into, and what matters to them. They should also reflect on feedback from others, listening to what others think of and appreciate about them. Teachers can encourage this reflective ability by questioning students themselves. Why not get your students to answer these questions through a reflective essay-writing task, to get their thoughts flowing?

Drive goal-setting

Students with a sense of purpose set clear goals, defined by what matters to them, and make realistic plans to accomplish these goals. Teachers can get their students to set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) in line with their developing sense of purpose. Sense of purpose facilitates goal achievement through providing optimism, determinism to reach challenging goals, and resilience to barriers.

There are many ways you can help your students set great goals. Using our printable goal-setting worksheets is one of them.

Model and mentor

Teachers modelling their own sense of purpose can have a powerful impact on students as they explore their values and aspirations. Teachers should be mentors as well as models. Although having a strong sense of purpose has clear benefits, searching for sense of purpose can be unsettling and stressful. Students need to be supported through the process. Teachers can provide this support, but should also maintain high expectations, as this will give students a purpose to strive to reach them. Last but not least, reinforce that students can achieve what they set out to do - and more. This will also work to foster their growth mindset development, which is closely related to sense of purpose.

Connect to the real world

All too often, students see education as something they just have to struggle through to be able to get on with their lives. Teachers need to show students that education is closer to the reality of their lives than they might think. Get students involved in real-world problems, and teach them about inspirational people, to bridge the gap between classroom and life. Also, give students a voice, for example with a student committee. This helps them to realise the power they have to make a difference for things they care about.

Final Thoughts

Sense of purpose is a complex concept. It can take years to develop and may change over time. Given its benefits, we believe it is important to help students engage in developing their sense of purpose. We hope that our 5 tips will give teachers some strategies to do this.

Still struggling to grasp what sense of purpose actually is in the first place? Have a read of our blog on “What is Sense of Purpose?”.

Online teacher CPD about resilience and motivation

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