The Greater Good Take on Education

Over the last 20 years, our scientific understanding of human development has skyrocketed—and it’s creating a paradigm shift in how we educate our children. Scientists are now suggesting that cognitive development is only 50 percent of the education equation. The other half is social and emotional development.

Research reveals that developing students’ social and emotional intelligence improves their academic achievement and overall well-being. At the Greater Good Science Center, we go one step further: We believe that cultivating positive qualities such as compassion, happiness, gratitude, and mindfulness will lead to a wider transformation, as children mature into young adults who place care, empathy, and social connection at the center of their lives and society.

Studies suggest that the seeds of these positive qualities are present from early in life; we often just need the right factors to nurture them. One of the most important factors is a caring teacher, who can model these qualities and weave them into their lessons. Indeed, one of the keys to successfully implementing social-emotional learning (SEL) programs in schools is the degree to which teachers and school leaders understand the value of SEL and develop their own social and emotional intelligence.

Yet studies show that both teachers and school leaders are burning out, unable to tend to their own well-being, let alone that of the students. It’s little wonder why: Not only is their work enormously stressful but, as a recent report discovered, most education professionals receive little to no training in SEL. However, 83 percent of them want it.

The Greater Good Science Center is helping to fill this gap.

Our Theory of Change

By presenting education professionals with practical, scientific insights into human development, we help them better understand the roots of positive behavior and emotional well-being. Once they appreciate the importance of these qualities for adults and children alike, we offer research-based tools to help first cultivate those qualities in themselves before teaching them to students.

In other words, we believe it is possible to teach only what we know or have experienced ourselves—and that teachers will be more effective after cultivating their own inner qualities of happiness, compassion, and equanimity, helping to revitalize their passion for teaching.

Our Goals

The GGSC Education Program strives to meet the following goals:

  • Raise awareness among education professionals, parents, policy makers, and the general public about the importance of social and emotional development—including skills such as empathy, compassion, gratitude, and mindfulness—in every aspect of education.

  • Provide thought leadership to the current SEL, character education, and mindfulness in education movements by highlighting the scientific findings that help support, enhance, and connect their work.

  • Empower education professionals with research-based practices for fostering social and emotional well-being and prosocial behavior in themselves and students.

Key Greater Good Education Content


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