Dream Team at Parker Woods Montessori Elementary. The authors and University of Cincinnati facilitators.

About our dream research studies

Scientifically proven, evidence-based results!


Here’s is what we do in three sentences: We teach children (and adults) how to dream and how to turn those dreams into reality. Then we measure whether learning how to dream and set goals helps children, in particular, whether it increases their optimism. Finally, we take everything we learn and use it to improve our tool for teaching this method, which is our workbook, Dream It!

We have conducted 6 research studies over a 5-year period, each one improving upon the methods of the last. An analogy that we like to use is that if our ultimate goal was measuring the circumference of the Earth, we started by verifying that our rulers were accurate. 

As we began our research, we realized it’s actually pretty difficult to measure a dream. We’re not talking about sleeping dreams but life dreams or passions. A dream is similar to a life goal, but perhaps without the full commitment (Yet!) to make it a reality. Since it is difficult to measure a dream, we used social-emotional skills as a proxy measure. We theorized that if students became better at dreaming that they would become more optimistic about their futures (confidence). Similarly, we theorized that we could find improvements in perseverance (grit), growth mindset and hope. We also measured the differences between quantity and quality of dreams. As you will see below, we improved in all these measures. 

But, we’re not just concerned about the students improving, we also care about the teachers, whether they be parents, professionals or health care workers. So, we also conduct interviews with teachers and facilitators to see if they think our book and curriculum is fun and easy to implement. Spoiler alert: They do! Better yet, teachers report that our program increases the overall school climate. Wow! 

Below, we are excited to share some highlights of our research with you! 

Highlights of all our dream research studies

Below are some infographics and testimonials from our dream research. You can also click the links to read detailed descriptions of how we conducted each study step-by-step. 

Tested in school classrooms!

Teachers agree: Activities align with the Common Core StandardsOur book is proven to work in the real world. We tested “Dream It!” in about a dozen different academic environments, including public schools, private schools, after-school programs like the YMCA, and non-profit organizations. If the teachers, facilitators, parents, or kids didn’t like or understand an activity we threw it out and started over.

Dream Workshop. Talking hat and taking a step of action on the magic carpet.
This classroom shares their dreams at the end of our first research study. The boy in the middle is wearing the talking hat. The students are actually standing on an illustration of a magic carpet in their books, and dreaming of where they might go. This page was one that got rejected, but it was one of the creative ways we were trying to get kids to interact with their book.
Update 2020-08:

BIG NEWS! Dream It! Achieves a Research Publication Milestone

We are thrilled to announce that our latest dream research study has been published in the peer-reviewed, scientific journal Child & Youth Care Forum. The paper, titled “Dream It! Preliminary Evidence for an Educational Tool to Increase Children’s Optimistic Thinking,” was written in collaboration with our research partners at the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Public Schools. Publishing the results of our study is an honor and an opportunity to contribute to the body of knowledge on optimistic thinking in children and the larger social-emotional literature. 

Intervention results graph

Once again “Dream It!” has been proven to have a statistically significant increase in Optimistic Thinking and Grit (perseverance). And we also showed improvement in Growth Mindset and Hope.



Dream It! also had a statistically significant increase in Dreaming (quantity and quality). By quality, we mean that be  the end of our study students recorded more aspirational dreams like, “Be a scientist,” rather than non-reality-based dreams, like “Go to Candyland.”


  • Fun and easy to implement
  • Students not only improved — they enjoyed the book and workshop!
  • Teachers responded positively. Not only did they report that the book was fun and easy to implement, but they also said that the school climate, as a whole, improved.
  • Results suggest that the “Dream It!” intervention is feasible in the real world and can be successfully integrated into classroom activities.
  • More about this study.
Thank you gift for the UC facilitators. "Thank you Ms Abby for teaching to love my dreams."
On the final day of our presentation, the Parker Woods students prepared gifts (dream pinwheels) for their UC facilitators. It was an incredible and teary-eyed moment. Like Dr Sara said, "It was all the 'data' we needed."

About our first university study

97% of kids recommend The Dream It! PlaybookThe Dream Playbook was tested by the University of Cincinnati in a year-long study called “Promoting Optimistic Thinking in YMCA After-School Students” as part of community service and outreach program. We had a Capstone Course of psychology students help mentor YMCA after-school students on how to dream (goal setting). The UC mentors also did an assessment of the feasibility of whether this curriculum improved socio-emotional learning in the academic environment (optimistic thinking per the DESSA measure). Overall it was both an effective and fun year for both students and facilitators.

The following year a group of these UC students continued the project in an independent study and the results were published in the Pennsylvania State University Undergraduate Journal of Service Learning & Community-Based Research.

Evidence-Based Results

Tested in a 1-year university study*

22% improvement in children's optimistic thinking. (A big improvement!)
90% of kids looked forward to Dream It! Playbook sessions.​
97% of kids recommended the Dream It! Playbook.​
100% of kids reported thinking about their goals more often

The Dream It Playbook is proven statistically significantly to improve optimistic thinking, grit (perseverance), hope and a growth mindset. * More about this study.

Passion Word Search and Thermometer Test Pages
Every session we would collect pages from the book to see how kids were interacting with the concepts and games. A lot of pages — over a hundred — just ended up in the recycle bin. Here's an example of page that worked well. Notice that this student measures her passion off the scale of the thermometer (actually, most kids did). And this student loved the word search, and judging by the answers it really helped them to put all these emotions into the context of powering a dream to make it real. Pictured above: Students participating in the Dream Playbook study. One is wearing the Talking Hat, and they are all taking a step of action to make their dreams real.

Benefits per the UC Study

The playbook had overwhelmingly positive feedback. Here are a few highlights from this year-long study in 2nd-8th grades:

100% of kids reported thinking about their goals more often with the Dream It! Playbook.
Research has demonstrated the benefits of children learning about dreaming. The book is based on educational, social-emotional, and cognitive development theories, and built on the backbone of our novel dream principles and original research. The games in Dream It! were tested in a university study* of the promotion of optimistic thinking in students in 2nd to 8th grade who worked on the book as a weekly class in an after school program. Highlights from the results of the year-long study include:
  • Dream It! scored a 22% improvement in optimistic thinkingStudents who completed the Playbook increased in a measure of optimistic thinking by 29% in the first semester and 17% in the second semester.
  • After completing the Playbook, 100% of students reported that they were thinking more about their goals and future dreams. This led the researchers to conclude that the Playbook may be an effective tool to increase student achievement through increasing dreaming and goal setting.
  • Nearly 90% of children reported looking forward to their weekly Playbook session. This led the researchers to conclude that the Playbook may contribute to improved school attendance by providing many students with an exciting reason to go to school.
  • There were no differences in the positive influence of the Playbook by gender or grade
  • The influence of the Dream Playbook on optimistic thinking did not depend the school.
  • The students who participated in this study are ethnically and socioeconomically diverse; this demonstrates the relevance and usefulness of the playbook for a diverse group of children.
  • More about working with groups

The study concluded that Dream It! is an effective, evidence-based tool for teaching social-emotional skills and increasing optimistic thinking that is enjoyed by all students.

Pictured above students make dream catchers using paper plates, colored yarn, beads and feathers.
Pictured above: Students make dream catchers using paper plates, colored yarn, beads and feathers.

You should change the title of the book to: "Live the life YOU want to live, if YOU put your mind to it!"

Recommendation by a Child in the Research Study

A comparison study

The below chart looks very boring, but it represents an important discovery. Student’s optimistic thinking improved the most when engaged in activities focused on creating dreams and exploring passion (semester one content) compared to activities focused on problem-solving and overcoming obstacles (semester two content).

In other words, it is important to build a foundation of dreaming before moving on to higher-level thinking about implementing dreams to improve optimistic thinking. An example we like to use is that if the student has the dream (passion + life goal) to be an astronaut that will fuel their motivation for science and math. Unfortunately, in most schools, the math and science comes first, and learning how to dream is not even a subject in school. Luckily, social-emotional learning curriculums are gaining wide acceptance. 

Read more about this study.

Graph optimistic thinking percent improvement semester 2

Articles about our original research

So far, we have collaborated on 6 university-led research projects, each one using the scientific process and building on the methods of the previous studies. We have also held a lot of informal workshops at schools and non-profit organizations to test our material. And behind the scenes, we are doing ongoing research, literature reviews and consulting social-emotional professionals to make sure everything we do is evidence-based and peer-reviewed.  See all our research projects below. 

Intervention results graph

Dream It! Achieves a Research Publication Milestone

Great news!!! Today is an exciting day for the science of dreaming (goal setting, aspiration, passions). We are proud to announce that our latest dream research study has been published in the peer-reviewed, scientific journal Child & Youth Care Forum.

Dream Workshop University of Cincinnati Facilitators

Impact and feasibility of the Dream Workshop

A summary of a research study conducted by the University of Cincinnati to test the efficacy of a Dream Workshop and whether it improved children’s self-confidence as measure of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL).

Dream Team at Parker Woods Montessori Elementary. The authors and University of Cincinnati facilitators.

Improving social and emotional awareness using the Dream It! Playbook

Student’s using the workbook “Dream It!” had a scientifically proven, evidence-based improvement in optimistic thinking and perseverance (along with improvements in hope, growth-mindset and overall school climate) among elementary school students. Highlights from our most-important study to date, including lots of pictures and graphs.

Doctor Sara Williams at the American Psychological Association's annual conference

Improving Children’s Optimistic Thinking by Teaching them to Dream about Life Goals

We were honored to attend the American Psychological Associations 2018 annual conference to present the results of our study. This is a new analysis of our data that, essentially, says that young students perform better when they are taught the basics of socioemotional skills, like passion and goal setting, first before more academic subjects, such as reading, writing and arithmetic.

Dream Workshop afternoon with Faces Without Places

The Dream Workshop Pilot Program

We tested the Dream Playbook in over a dozen schools. We called it our “Dream Workshop” but it was so much fun that the students called it “The Dream Club.”