Build Connections

What is Build Connections?

Build Connections is an activity that helps students understand how their existing interests relate to the content they learn in school.

Build Connections taps into students’ intrinsic curiosity and motivation. What’s more, it encourages that curiosity to flourish in class.


30 minutes
All ages

Getting started

Watch the 1-minute overview

View the full Playbook:


Use Build Connections with your class

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“My students made powerful connections to their future ... I was thrilled with the depth of my students’ knowledge of their current subject matter.”
— Heidi, 6th grade teacher, Ludlow, Vermont

View individual Playbook elements:

Build Connections translations:

“Build Connections was helpful because some of my interests could relate to what we study in class, which I did not think was possible.” 
— 10th grade student, Forestville, Maryland

More about Build Connections

 Professor Chris Hulleman

Professor Chris Hulleman


What's the science?

Developed by Professor Chris Hulleman, Build Connections is grounded in a decade of research on utility value. Multiple studies have found that when students see value in a school subject, they earn higher grades in those courses, choose to take more classes in the subject, and score better on standardized tests. In the long term, activities that help students see relevance in school content make them more likely to major in those subjects in college and pursue related careers.

About the researchers

Chris Hulleman is principal investigator of the Motivate Lab and associate research professor at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. His research explores how motivation and mindsets impact human development and growth, particularly in education. He received his PhD in experimental social and personality psychology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2007 and his BA from Central College. Prior to his career in psychology, he spent six years as teacher and coach in Iowa.

Teresa Hulleman spent six years as an educator before becoming a full-time parent to her five children. She has spent the last five years as a part-time editor and reviewer of educational research. For Build Connections, she helped translate the research so that teachers could apply the core components with fidelity in the classroom. 

Research articles

Making connections: Replicating and extending the utility value intervention in the classroom
Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication.
Hulleman, C. S., Kosovich, J. J., Barron, K. E., & Daniel, D. B. (2016).
Promoting interest and performance in high school science classes
Science, 326, 1410–1412.
Hulleman, C. S., et al. (2009).

Using Build Connections with your class?

Thank you to the following individuals for their help with Build Connections

Sara Angel, Heidi Batz, Natasha Hatcher, Megan Judd, Meredith Kane-Sokol, Kelly Krier, Charles Shryock, Dr. Kebra Ward