Graduation Year


Document Type

Master's Thesis


Master of Science



Program Director

Jennifer Lucko, PhD

First Reader

Matthew E. Davis, PhD

Second Reader

Katherine Lewis, PhD


The purpose of this study was to understand how elementary school students learn to be kind to one another and what role teachers might play in creating an environment for this learning, particularly following a pandemic during which most students spent learning in online, asynchronous and hybrid formats. To achieve this goal, this study integrated a theoretical framework inclusive of CASEL’s practices for Social Emotional Learning, models for Teaching Kindness and, finally, the Responsive Classroom approach. The researcher conducted qualitative research, through the use of daily gratitude journaling and various lessons in social emotional learning with students from a low income elementary school. Additionally, the researcher focused on the impact of COVID-19 on students' emotional well being as it relates to being kind in the classroom. The findings highlighted seeing and looking for kindness in students, finding opportunities for inclusion and the ripple effect of kindness, and how the students found “Play” supported them in being authentic, open and mutually supportive. These findings have important implications for how teachers can emphasize the importance of play for student development, as well as “learning to see” the kindness already innate within each student as a way of supporting a caring learning community. These findings also support a need for professional development time for cohorts of teachers to collectively work together to develop strategies as a school to build community in the classrooms and on campus as a whole as well as the introduction of policies to support kindness as a core school and classroom practice in order to facilitate productive learning environments.

IRB Number


Included in

Education Commons