The Gratitude visit: Student reflections on a positive psychology experiential learning exercise

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Jackelyn Payne
Huma Babar
Elizabeth Tse
Anne Moyer


Higher education, positive psychology, gratitude, experiential learning


This study aimed to examine students' subjective experiences and insights in response to engaging in a positive psychology exercise focused on gratefulness that was part of a college course. We conducted a qualitative content analysis of 97 reflection assignments submitted as part of undergraduate and graduate level positive psychology courses at a large public university. A grounded theory approach to qualitative research guided the analytic process. Six major themes emerged, including students’ thoughts about the interventions and difficulties with the experience, how the gratitude visit impacted their interpersonal relationships, reflections on the construct of gratitude, the effect of the intervention on their mood and stress levels, and beliefs about how the experience had and would continue to affect their lives beyond the course. Our findings support prior research suggesting the beneficial impact of experiential learning and imply that such experiential exercises are feasible in multiple levels of psychology courses.


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