Thanks in large part to the generous support of the Templeton Foundation, a growing body of empirical research highlights the promise of purpose. The construct has been shown to play a powerfully generative role in the lives of adolescents (see Bronk, 2013). It is associated with psychological well-being (Bronk, 2013; Damon, 2008; Ryff & Singer, 2008) and indicators of academic achievement, including grit (Hill, Burrow, & Bronk, 2014), an internal locus of control (Pizzolato, Brown, & Kanny, 2011), resiliency (Benard, 1991), and academic efficacy (Solberg, O’Brien, Villarreal, Kennel, & Davis, 1993). Propelled by a personally meaningful and highly motivating aim, youth with purpose know what they hope to achieve and how academics can help; consequently they stay in school and excel academically (Damon, 2009).
However, in spite of the benefits of committing to a personally meaningful aspiration, research finds that only about 25% of high school students demonstrate a clear purpose in life (Bronk, Finch, & Talib, 2009; Damon, 2008). Since external factors have been shown to encourage the development of purpose (Benson, 2008; Pizzolato, et al., 2011), it stands to reason that what is needed now is a set of effective tools that can quickly be administered to foster purpose among youth.
Given the relationship between academic achievement and purpose, schools represent a viable and under-utilized venue for fostering purpose (Koshy & Mariano, 2011). Accordingly, the aim of this mixed-methods, longitudinal study is to create and assess empirically-grounded activities that teachers can use in the classroom to encourage the development of purpose among adolescents. Findings will be published in highly-regarded peer reviewed journals, and the resulting tools will be shared widely with educators and policymakers across the country to encourage their broad implementation. We believe this ambitious project will help increase rates of youth purpose nationwide.