Increasing HOPE


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We’ve all met someone that is optimistic, cheerful about the future, and down right motivated to succeed—and they often do. Why? How does such a world-view produce the intrinsic motivation and drive required to continually succeed?



Optimism does, in fact, translate into better student performance (Chemers, Hu, & Garcia, 2001).

As such, optimism provides the mind-set, the idea, and the traction to progress through life’s challenges. In that, optimism can be described as a, “dispositional tendency to hold generalized positive expectancies” about the future (Chemers, Hu, & Garcia, 2001, p. 56). It is a look forward with positive thoughts that invigorate such ideals towards positive expectancies and optimistic viewpoints that fosters success. Collectively, optimism can be seen as a producer of positive judgments, psychological well being, and a source of driving persistence towards goal accomplishment (Chemers, Hu, & Garcia, 2001; Chemers, Watson, & May, 2000; Scheier, Carver, & Bridges, 2000).

People’s level of motivation, affective states, and actions are base more on what they believe than what is objectively the case. – Albert Bandura

Where optimism is viewed as a behavior or dispositional tendency, academic self-efficacy is explained as the “…belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to produce given attainments” (Bandura, 1997, p. 3). This construct looks directly at how one perceives their ability as it relates to a particular goal. In that, one’s self-efficacy enables direction, resilience, and the ability to cope with difficulties along the way (Chemers, Hu, & Garcia, 2001). Additionally, self-efficacy is related to one’s path through education by its influence upon the increased use of positive beliefs of one’s ability (Chemers, Hu, & Garcia, 2001). Self-efficacy in academic settings has also been shown to help define higher achievement goals and provide clear comparative views between their performance and those of others (avoiding self-serving bias) (Cervone & Peake, 1986). Ultimately, the ability to improve or bolster one’s optimism and self-efficacy can stand to improve academic performance.

Collectively, these two notions define a cognitive set of expectancy beliefs (among others not listed) that pursue goal attainment and provide positive footing through the navigation of life. Optimism is a disposition towards positive results that are manifested in beliefs of positive expectancies and success, whereas self-efficacy is deeply rooted through the specificity of the subject and environmental factors (Bandura, 1986; Chemers, Hu, & Garcia, 2001). In other words, self-efficacy is different for each subject while optimism is generally viewed as a global view of positive future event expectancies.

It is well established that both being optimistic and having a positive view upon one’s own self-efficacy can translate into better academic performance (Molton, Brown, & Lent, 1991; Schunk, 1981; Wood, Bandura, & Bailey, 1990; Zimmerman, 1989), however, how do we improve those instances? How do we project students to gain optimism and improve their view of their own abilities in relation to particular academic performances and goals?

One method is through the interventional use of hope. Snyder’s (2000) hope theory essentially brings together optimism, self-efficacy, and goals into one positive theory. In that, Snyder, Irving and Anderson (1991) explained hope as, “a positive motivational state that is based on an interactively derived sense of successful (a) agency (goal-directed energy) and (b) pathways (planning to meet goals).”

  • Goals, as described by Snyder (1994), are in a sense ‘valuable’ yet unrefined—by which they provide substantial starting and end points for hopeful progress.
  • Pathways are defined as steps created, though not solidified, to achieve the desired goals (Snyder, 2000). In that, such pathways are flexible, re-routable, and dynamic in the sense that they can change as the environment changes. Additionally, pathways are far reaching visions of positive eventualities that are predicated by understand the relationship between the past, present, and ability for the future to replicate or prosper reciprocally (Snyder, 2002).
  • Agency thoughts allude to the motivation that instigates movement along the path and towards the goal.

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(Snyder, 2002, p. 254).

In this sense, goal attainment can be seen as the collective effort of both optimism (pathways) and self-efficacy (agency).

A simple intervention can be employed to improve pathway identification, agency, and ultimately the attainment of academic goals in a positive light.

Identify the Problem: No organized plan that collectively approaches the progress, path, and matriculation of secondary students in a positive strength focused way.

Identify a Solution: Utilizing facets of Snyder’s (2000) Hope Theory, three areas will be focused upon to improve student outcome and attainment of goals. Provide one-on-one counseling to establish: 1. Goals inline with student strengths. 2. Explain and improve their view and use of agency. 3. Develop three pathways to attain their goals that instill confidence in the future and its direction. As such, the increase, awareness, education, and positive outlook of these three areas will improve student academic performance and goal attainment.

Set Goals and Design an Intervention: Goals: Improve academic performance by improving the alignment of goals with student aspirations, interests, and strengths while cultivating their acknowledgement of individual agency to migrate through the pathways towards goal attainment. Intervention: First year (only 9th graders) high school students will undergo first week counseling to establish the aforementioned areas of focus. Weekly meetings will progress throughout the school year and subsequent years to help align their goals with changing interests and strengths, clarify changes in agency, and identify new pathways that may better facilitate goal attainment.

Implement the Intervention: This will occur through the use of school counselors and the administration to ensure each student is counseled and continues to be counseled with the aforementioned areas of focus. This will require a collective assault of the entire staff to best fit the three areas of focus with each student.

Evaluation: The evaluation of student improvement will be evaluated as comparative to previous class grades, progress, and test scores. Also, years later, college admittance or job attainment can be compared between previous graduating years and the target class. This will be used to evaluate the efficacy of the theory; it’s use, function, and attainment of aforementioned goals. Additionally, the use of the Adult Dispositional Hope Scale (Snyder et al., 1991) and the Children’s Hope Scale (Snyder et al., 1997) can be used at the beginning and end of each year to statistically determine and validate interventional efficacy.

In sum, the presence and explanation of optimism and self-efficacy as they relate to academics has been discussed to demonstrate correlations and similarities with hope theory. The interventional value of hope theory within academics can provide a collaborative environment to foster positive views that produce better learning environment and hopefully positive academic performance.


Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.

Cervone, D., & Peake, P. K. (1986). Anchoring, efficacy, and action: The influence of judgmental heuristics on self-efficacy judgments and behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 492-501.

Chemers, M. M., Hu, L., & Garcia, B. F. (2001). Academic self-efficacy and first-year college student performance and adjustment. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93(1), 55-64. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.93.1.55

Chemers, M. M., Watson, C. B., & May, S. T. (2000). Dispositional affect and leadership effectiveness: A comparison of self-esteem, optimism, and efficacy. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26(3), 267-277. doi:10.1177/0146167200265001

Multon, K. D., Brown, S. D., & Lent, R. W. (1991). Relation of self-efficacy beliefs to academic outcomes: A meta-analytic investigation. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 38, 30-38.

Scheier, M. F., Carver, C. S., & Bridges, M. W. (2000). Optimism, pessimism, and psychological well-being. In E. C. Chang (Ed.), Optimism and pessimism: Implications for theory, research, and practice (pp. 189-216). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Schunk, D. H. (1981). Modeling and attributional effects on children’s achievement: A self-efficacy analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 73, 93-105.

Snyder, C. R. (2002). Hope theory: Rainbows in the mind. Psychological Inquiry, 13(4), 249-275.

Snyder, C. R., Harris, C., Anderson, J. R., Holleran, S. A., Irving, L. M., Sigmon, S. T., Yoshinobu, L. Gibb, J. Langelle, C, & 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(4), 570-585. doi:10.1037/00223514.60.4.570

Snyder, C., Hoza, B., Pelham, W., Rapoff, M., Ware, L., Danovsky, M., Highberger, L., Rubinstein, H. & Stahl, K. (1997). The development and validation of the children’s hope scale. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 22(3), 399-421. doi:10.1093/jpepsy/22.3.399

Snyder, C.R. (1994). The psychology of hope: You can get there from here. New York: Free press. Cited in Snyder, C.R. (2000). Hypothesis: There is Hope. In C.R. Snyder (Eds.), Handbook of Hope Theory, Measures and Applications (pp.3-21). San Diego: Academic Press.

Snyder, C.R. (2000). Hypothesis: There is Hope. In C.R. Snyder (Eds.), Handbook of Hope Theory, Measures and Applications (pp.3-21). San Diego: Academic Press.

Snyder, C.R., Irving, L., & Anderson, J.R. (1991). Hope and Health: Measuring the will and the ways. In C.R. Snyder & D.R. Forsyth (Eds.) Handbook of social and clinical psychology: The health perspective (pp.285-305). Elmsford, New York: Pergamon Press. Cited in Snyder, C.R. (2000). Hypothesis: There is Hope. In C.R. Snyder (Eds.), Handbook of Hope Theory, Measures and Applications (pp.3-21). San Diego: Academic Press.

Wood, R. E., & Bandura, A. (1989). Impacts of conceptions of ability on self regulatory mechanisms and complex decision making. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 407-415.

Zimmerman, B. J. (1989). A social-cognitive view of self-regulated academic learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 81, 329-339.

1 comment

  1. Windy Williams Alonso

    Wow, what an awesome post!! I really enjoyed reading and it is timely for my professional/student life. I am scheduled to do my first podium presentation at a national conference 4 hours from now. I am going to do my best to be optimistically hopeful as I run through my power point one last time! Did you find any research on negative-self talk? I struggle to stifle that negative inner voice sometimes. I’ve read several articles on how positive self-talk can impact success and also watched a TEDtalk on body language ( that recommends posing like superman before a big presentation to be more confident (you can bet I will be found in my hotel room posing like superman in approximately 3.5 hours! haha!)


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