Measuring Hope With Your Students

Last week I promised to share with you in this week’s blog proven research-based activities you can use to instill hope with your students. But, after hearing from some of my readers about their interest in also knowing how they can measure hope with their students, I decided to focus on this topic instead. 

I am going to share information with you about two valid survey tools for measuring hope. This doesn’t mean there aren’t other tools available for you to use or that I am endorsing these two. It simply means that I am more familiar with these two surveys than others, and from my experience in working with schools and community organizations over the years, they seem to be the most widely used.

1. Gallup Student Poll

The 24 core items in the Gallup Survey Poll measure several dimensions of student success, including engagement with school, hope for the future, entrepreneurial aspiration and career/financial literacy.

The Gallup Student Poll measures factors with links to student success and gives educators a tool beyond test scores to engage students today and make them ready for tomorrow. The Gallup Student Poll is designed to aid educators in providing an education that builds engagement, creates hope for the future, fosters talent and prepares students to participate meaningfully in our nation’s economy by finding or creating a good job one day.

The Gallup Student Poll is provided at a nominal fee and is confidential. The poll is conducted once per year with students in grades 5 through 12, in the fall, and is available in English or Spanish. (Survey dates for this coming school year are September 23-October 25, 2019.) The survey takes the average student about 10 minutes to complete. Gallup administers the poll and aggregates and analyzes the results within two to three weeks of the close of the poll. Primary account users for the district, school or organization are provided access to their results online. You can learn more details about the Gallup survey at

2. The Hope Survey for Students

The Hope Survey for Students consists of a series of online surveys which ask students their perceptions of autonomy, belongingness, goal orientation, academic press, engagement and hope.

The survey is geared for middle school and high school students, consists of a “New Student” version for incoming students, and an “Ongoing Student” survey for students who have been in the school or district for 1+ years. Elementary schools may use the surveys for 4-6 grade students with valid results. The survey is not recommended for 3rd grade or younger students. The surveys take 20-30 minutes.

There is also a second survey you can administer. The Hope Survey for Staff is geared for the adults that have impact on students. The survey indicates the level of hope in the adults who work with students in some capacity. There is a belief that a higher level of hope among teachers has a positive effect on the hope of the students in their care. It can be given to teachers only, or to any staff member, determined by the administration of the school. The surveys measure teacher self-efficacy, collective self-efficacy, job satisfaction, teacher autonomy, outside influences and engagement. The survey takes 10-15 minutes.

There is a cost to administer the Hope Survey. For more information, go to

No matter which hope measurement tool you use, obtaining results on your students’ level of hope is important. It offers you results that can lead to future actions and strategies specific for your school or organization’s needs. It can initiate much-needed conversations between your staff, parents and students. And, most importantly, it gives students a voice on topics that are very critical, but are rarely asked of them or measured.

Creating a Ripple Effect of Hope With Your Students

by Kathleen Nelson-Simley

In last week’s blog, I shared the good news that hope is something that can be cultivated with all of your students – even those who are at risk for losing it or have already lost it.

First, it’s important to be on the same page in our understanding of what hope is. Hope doesn’t mean wishful thinking, as in “I hope I win the lottery!”. Instead a person who is high in hope knows how to do the following things:

  • Set clear and attainable goals.
  • Develop multiple strategies to reach those goals.
  • Stay motivated to use the strategies to attain the goals – even when the going gets tough.

Developing hope is a process. Hopeless students can learn to be hopeful. Here are practical and proven research-based strategies you can use to instill hope with your kids:

  • Build a future focus with your students. Talk often with your students about their possible futures. What do they want to achieve, be, do or have in their future? And, why? Encourage dreaming. Have them imagine their potential best selves. Let kids know that nothing is “off limits” for them to imagine for themselves in their future. Have them visualize a “big picture” for themselves and their future. Allow kids to draw pictures or write words that describe what they are visualizing. Have you ever heard that phrase, “If you can imagine it, then you can achieve it?” So, let them imagine.
  • Students should then rank what they want or are visualizing for their future in order of importance. Researchers have found that this is particularly vital for students with little hope as they often attempt anything that comes to mind. This can distract their energy and focus from the things that are the most important to them and that can have the greatest impact on their overall well-being.
  • Teach them how to create a goal by taking the most important thing they want in their future and writing a goal for it that is both specific and takes a positive, solutions-oriented approach. Their goal needs to focus on accomplishing something in the future, rather than avoiding something now. For instance, “I want to play on the basketball team” is a more effective, motivating goal than “I will stop drinking soda.”
  • Have students create plans or pathways to achieve their goal. When a student says, “I want to be a veternarian”, be encouraging and then ask them, “What do you need to do to make that happen?” Discuss pathways, options and possibilities to make the goal happen. Breakdown the goal, especially if it’s long-term, into steps. Research has suggested that students with low hope frequently think goals have to be accomplished all-at-once. Teaching them how to see their goals as a series of steps will give them reasons to celebrate their successes along the way and keep their motivation high.
  • Teach students there is more than one way to reach a goal. Studies show that one of the greatest challenges for students with low hope is their inability to move past obstacles. They often lack key problem-solving skills causing them to abandon the quest for their goals. Teaching them to visualize different paths to their goals will help them get beyond insurmountable barriers. Most importantly, help them see that barriers to reaching goals is inevitable. Let them know that everyone faces obstacles. Knowing this ahead of time won’t surprise or throw them off course when an obstacle appears. And, if they are prepared for an obstacle they are more likely going to know what to do when faced with it.
  • When students face a challenge and get stuck, ask them, “What do you think is the next best thing to do? Don’t be quick to give them an answer or offer a solution. We don’t want them to rely on us for all the answers. Teach them how to rely on themselves and their own intuition, resourcefulness and initiative.
  • Keep it light and positive. It’s important to teach students to enjoy the process of attaining their goals. Laughing at themselves when they face obstacles and make mistakes is healthy! Above all, do not allow self pity! Research has found that students who use positive self-talk, rather than beating themselves up, are more likely to reach their goals. Saying things like, “I can do this,” and “I am not going to let this stop me” can move them forward instead of throwing in the towel and giving up.
  • Tell stories of success. Scientists have found that hopeful students draw on memories of their successes when they face an obstacle. However, students with low hope often don’t have these kinds of memories. That’s why it’s vital to read stories, watch movies or share stories of people, especially kids, who have overcome adversity to reach their goals. (One of my favorite movies about someone who had a goal in their life and faced many adversities to achieve it is the movie, Rudy!)
  • Remind students they can always ask an adult for help. Research shows the importance of having at least one positive adult in a student’s life that can cheer, guide, coach, support and challenge them towards their future goals. While it is important for you to always be this kind of an adult in your work with kids, do not assume the sole responsibility with each of your students. Your kids need to have an adult in their life who will be there for them long-term. You are in their life today, but will you be one year, five years or ten years from now when your students are still working on achieving their life goal(s)? Taking the time to talk with students one-on-one to determine who that one adult might be for them is crucial. And, remember, it can be any adult!
  • Monitor and celebrate. Make time to have students review their progress towards their goals. Are they on track with their original plan of action? Do they need to do something different than originally planned? What have they accomplished? Celebrate their achievements, no matter how big or small they are. Find ways to privately and publicly acknowledge and celebrate student successes!

Keep in mind, that through this entire process the goals students are working towards must be what they want and not what their parents or you want for them. Students will only summon the energy and willpower to work on goals and persevere the challenges and barriers if the goals are ones important to them.

Helping every student have just one positive experience in achieving a goal important to them can create a ripple effect of more positive experiences. This ripple effect over a lifetime can have a profound impact on your kids’ lives. And, this ripple effect starts with you!

In next week’s blog I will share specific research-based activities you can do to teach hope with your students and integrates many of the research-based strategies mentioned in this article.

Hopeful vs. Stuck

I want you to think about two kids you work with…one who is resilient and happy and the other who is struggling and discouraged. Imagine if you interviewed each of them and you ask them to respond to each of these statements with a “yes” or a “no.”I can think of many ways to get the things in life that are important to me.I think I am doing pretty well.

I am doing just as well as other kids my age.

When I have a problem I can come up with lots of ways to solve it.

I believe the things I have done in the past will help me in my future.

Even when others want to quit, I want to keep trying.

Chances are the child who is resilient will respond with a “yes” to these items. The child who is struggling is more likely to say, “no”.

These items are from the Children’s Hope Scale and assess the hopefulness of adolescents.

Hopeful kids are energetic and happier. They are more satisfied with life. They do better with things like academics and achievements in sports. Hopeful kids have better relationships. They can develop many strategies to reach goals and have backup plans should they face problems along the way. Obstacles are seen as challenges to overcome by seeking support and finding alternative strategies. They are more optimistic and they tell themselves, “I can do this. I won’t give up.” These students expect good outcomes and focus on success and because of it they experience greater positive affect. They are kids who don’t take failure personally. Instead, they use it to improve their performance next time.

Stuck or discouraged kids tend to not try, have poor relationships and feel helpless. They lack energy to get things done. They don’t achieve goals primarily because they don’t set any. And, when they do set them, that’s where it stops. Why? Because they don’t have enough hope to find ways to achieve those goals or they give up when encountering barriers because they can’t think of other pathways around the obstacles or can’t get the support they need. This often results in frustration, a loss of confidence and lower self-esteem. Stuck or discouraged students don’t use past failures to improve their performance in the future.

Can you think of a hopeful student you are working with? Can you also think of a stuck or discouraged student?

Thankfully, researchers have found the majority of students in the United States are very hopeful. But what about those who aren’t? They are in your classroom, afterschool program, community center and sports team. You worry about them. You want to help them, but you don’t know how to or you’ve tried, but nothing seems to have made a difference. Worse yet, you may have given up hope on some of them.

The good news is that hope CAN BE cultivated even among students who are at risk for losing it. Developing hope is a process and students who are currently hopeless can learn to be hopeful. Next week’s blog will offer practical and proven strategies you can use to instill hope with your kids.

Helping your students cultivate hope might be one of the most important things you do for them and can significantly impact their lives for the better far into the future.