Case Study

Combining a Quantitative and Qualitative Approach to a Foundation’s Impressive Work

Named after the American industrialist and philanthropist Arthur Vining Davis, the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations (AVDF) were organized in 1952. Supported by two trusts established by Mr. Davis, the Foundations “have supported various efforts to improve education, public media, religion, health, and the environment across the United States.”

Project Scope

Understanding the “Good Life” Courses

Universities in the United States and abroad are increasingly offering courses that engage undergraduate students in deep questions surrounding how to lead a good life through an exploration of purpose and life’s meaning. These courses are broadly labeled as “Good Life” courses, though a variety of titles exist, such as “Happiness and the Good Life,” “Philosophy as a Way of Life,” “Greek Literature and the Good Life,” and “Life Worth Living.” Regardless of the title, the courses themselves share a goal of helping students explore life’s purpose and meaning so that they can live a happier, more fulfilling life—both in the present and after graduation.

AVDF wanted to better understand who enrolls (and teaches) Good Life courses, the pedagogical techniques used, and the potential resulting student impacts.

Enter Lynch Research Associates.

Our Approach

Developing a Two-Part Study for Better Insights

The AVDF enlisted us to research the answers to the above questions. To accomplish this, we developed a two-part study.

  • PHASE 1
    We designed a qualitative interview process in which the LRA team conducted hour-long interviews with six faculty members who teach Good Life courses and six of their students.
  • PHASE 2
    Currently underway, we’re using insights gained from the qualitative study to create a survey to be administered to Good Life students and faculty nationwide.

Our founder, Alicia Lynch, explains the rationale behind this approach: “The process of first conducting a qualitative study and then using insights from the qualitative study to design a quantitative study is a well-regarded approach to fields such as this that are newly emerging.”


Rich Data, Unexpected Insights

The twelve hours of interview data that we collected provided incredibly rich data and unexpected insights into the experiences of faculty and students who have engaged in Good Life courses.

Though faculty reported using a wide variety of theoretical approaches and selected texts, several key themes emerged suggesting that Good Life courses, while taught from various perspectives across a range of universities, possess common threads both in their pedagogical approaches and in students’ lived experiences.

Next Up

Designing and Executing the Quantitative Study

The insights generated from the qualitative report provided a strong foundation for building a quantitative study.

LRA is currently recruiting Good Life faculty across the country to participate in a pre-post study (also known as a before-and-after study) in which students enrolled in Good Life courses in the Fall of 2022 will complete a survey before completing a Good Life course and after they’ve completed the course.

The quantitative study will allow us to reach a broader range of students and faculty. It will also deepen our understanding of what Good Life courses look like across the country, who is enrolling in these courses, and what pedagogical approaches may be most effective for helping students explore what it means to live a “Good Life” and (ultimately) how to adapt their attitudes and behaviors so that they can develop a stronger sense of meaning and purpose in life.

Stay tuned for the results of the quantitative study, which are expected to be available in the Spring of 2023.