Gratitude is a critical 21st century skill for success in school, work, and community. Teaching and measuring 21st century skills, however, can be challenging. Thx is a teacher-created prototype approach and web-based tool that develops the skill of gratitude in the classroom to create a more positive, trusting, and inclusive learning community with a deeper sense of belonging. Students feel happier, develop stronger relationships with their peers and teachers, and build a deeper sense of self.
Students and teachers first co-define a list of reasons why they often express thanks to others. The class then tags expressions of gratitude sent to individuals and personal reflections to the co-defined list. Overtime students develop a stronger sense of self by becoming aware of the reasons others are grateful to them and the reasons they themselves are grateful to others. The tool helps peers connect with each other safely and makes gratitude data and artifacts visible in ways that support reflection and growth.
Teachers monitor the expressions of gratitude and use class aggregates that show what the community is grateful for over a given period of time to lead conversations with students. Teachers participate equally in the practice, giving and receiving thanks and reflecting alongside their students, strengthening teacher-student relationships.
Our first goal was to create a way to support the development and regular practice of gratitude in a sustainable way. This meant creating a means (the thx tool) that was very quick and easy to use (two minutes or less) while also being powerful and useful in new ways (facilitating connections and seeing actionable data). Students reported connecting with peers they had never had much interaction with. They also reported connecting with their teacher in ways they had not before. Both of these contributed to a greater sense of belonging.
Our second goal was to measure the skill of gratitude in ways that go beyond self-reported pre and post surveys to also include data from the activity itself (giving frequency, goal progress, reflections that reference specific gratitude artifacts, distribution of gratitude tags given and received, etc.). We saw giving frequency increase and even occur outside class time using the tool. The data and artifacts led students to report a greater sense of self, knowing why others expressed gratitude to them.
The student and teacher results from our first prototype were promising, showing increases in happiness, stronger relationships, and a greater sense of self. We are currently working with the Youth Gratitude Project to explore the effects of using their gratitude curriculum with our new version of the thx tool, hoping to build on our initial results.