Motivation and emotion/Book/2019/Positive education
What is positive education and how can it be applied?
Overview[edit | edit source]
Following points about this topicː
- What is Positive Education?
- Psychological theories behind Positive Education
- How can Positive Education be applied?
Positive Education[edit | edit source]
Formajority of students throughout primary and high school, they can feel out of place, or just forcing themselves into learning instead of having the want to learn. In the now , schools look to have more of a positive approach on how their teachers educate their students, and how the students learn (J.M Norrish, 2013). This is becoming a very successful system and should be considered in all schools. Education for both traditional skills and for happiness can be defined as Positive Education. The high prevalence worldwide of depression among young people, the small rise in life satisfaction, and linking learning and positive emotion (positive well-being) argue that if we are happy then we tend to have more of the want to learn which concludes to better results in schools worldwide (Seligman, 2009). Positive Education tend to use the theories and philosophies of Positive Psychology in schools through students, staff, and teachers.
Psychological Theory[edit | edit source]
Positive psychology[edit | edit source]
Positive psychology is the study of flourishing, living life to the fullest, and happiness. Five main factors into a positive well-being are engagement, meaning, positive emotion, purpose and accomplishment (Seligman, 2000). Positive education tends to use the same principles of positive psychology into the classroom/schooling environment.
Tracing back to Martin E. P. Seligman’s 1998 Presidential Address to the American Psychological Association, Positive Psychology is considered a new branch and discovery of psychology (Seligman, 1998). Well-being, happiness, contentment, optimism, hope, savouring, flow, human strengths, resilience, and savouring is what Seligman focuses on heading towards more of a positive psychological approach. Positive psychology underlines the factors that build strength, helps people with mental health issues, and contributes to flourishing, which all of these elements help with optimal human functioning (Kun, 2017).
"The message of the positive psychology movement is to remind our field that it has been deformed. Psychology is not just the study of disease, weakness, and damage; it also is the study of strength and virtue. Treatment is not just fixing what is wrong; it also is building what is right. Psychology is not just about illness or health; it also is about work, education, insight, love, growth, and play. And in this quest for what is best, positive psychology does not rely on wishful thinking, self-deception, or hand waving; instead, it tries to adapt what is best in the scientific method to the unique problems that human behaviour presents in all its complexity (Seligman, 2002)."
There are multiple definitions for Positive Psychology, but the one that can relate to Positive Education the most is “Positive Psychologyis an umbrella term for theories and research about what makes life most worth living (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000).” This relates to Positive Education because if students make their schooling careers worthwhile and engage a positive approach towards their studies, then highly likely they will reach their fullest potential not only in school, but out in the real world also. Although, the science of psychology in other fields such as clinical, health, or social psychology, make a strong effort to try to understand what is wrong with individuals, organisations, and groups, Positive Psychology achieves the opposite trying to find what is ‘right’ with people, what works and how can they maintain a positive well-being.
Concept of Well-being[edit | edit source]
Facilitating happiness and subjective well-being is the main objective to Positive Psychology (Seligman, 2002). Measuring well-being from a positive-based standpoint is what positive psychologists try to attempt such as encouraging mental health and personal flourishing, well-being and increasing subjective. Well-being as positive and sustainable characteristics which enable individuals and organisations to thrive and flourish is what the positive psychology movement illustrates (McGillivray, 2006).
Flourishing[edit | edit source]
The common element for flourishing is that it optimises well-being as a multi-dimensional and holistic notion, which includes eudemonic (e.g. meaning, self-esteem, growth) and hedonic (e.g. emotional stability and positive emotions) factors. Taking flourishing on a Positive Education point of view, it can be seen as ‘feeling good’ and ‘doing good’ (Huppert & So, 2013). Feeling content about the past, having hope for the future, feeling good in the present, and able to manage with challenging emotions and experiences in a healthy way, is what the hedonic approach (feeling good) represents (Norrish, 2013). The eudemonic approach is aligned with doing good also, which the main objective is making sure students have the skills and knowledge to help them thrive and overcome with both encounters and opportunities (Norrish, 2013). By putting it into phrases such as ‘feeling good and doing good’ makes it easier to understand for the younger members of the school community what it means to flourish.
Flourishing in schools is a common theme most of the time. Separate students tend to flourish when they are happy, achieving their academic goals with confidence and competence, helping out other students, and having a solid relationship with their peers. Also, a staff member may experience flourishing by having positive emotions throughout the day, feels valued and respected within the school community, and has a sense of worth from his or hers work. A class may experience flourishing where students don’t feel out of place but feel included, teachers have control and feel confident, and where all members of the classroom are fully engaged and willing to learn to the content presented to them. On an outer level, a school community feels flourished where members of the school community have a sense of belonging and having culture which encourages social responsibility, positive emotions and effective learning (Norrish, 2013). Hence, promoting flourishing in schools relates to all multiple levels within the school structure.
PERMA model[edit | edit source]
Seligman (2011) suggested a model with five major components for well-being which he called PERMA. There are multiple ways on defining flourishing but it is generally defined as feeling good and functioning well through life (Huppert & So, 2013). To measure well-being as a model in regards to positive education, Seligman's 2011 PERMA model is a framework that has been assessed by what is valued by the youth (e.g. relationships and positive emotions) while also aligning school structures and strategies (Khaw, 2015). The Seligman 2011 PERMA is an acronym that stands for five elements that are key to sustain happiness and well-being. P is for positive emotions, E is for engagement, R is for relationships, M is for meaning and A is for accomplishment. Positive emotions enhanceshumans to feel good about themselves. Whether individuals read, go for a walk or even travel, they will do whatever to feel happy and joyful. Positive emotions strengthens relationships, enhances performances at work/school, improves physical health, and optimises hope for the future (Seligman, 2011). Engagement refers to being connected, concentrated, involved and the level of inclination towards activities such as recreation, hobbies, or work (Higgins, 2006). Flow is a vital concept, it usually involves when one loses one’s sense of self and time seems to stand still and concentrates deeply on the present. In a positive psychology point of view, flow is a state of utter, blissful immersion in the present moment. When we truly enjoy and care about things that we focus on, we completely begin to engage in the present moment and enter the state known as the flow (Seligman, 2011). For example, being fully engaged in class for student will enhance flourishing not only for the student, but for the teacher as well due to having full confidence in the class. For relationships, our physical and emotional contact with others, connection and love creates a strong inner need. By having solid relationships around us with all the people in our lives, this enhances our own well-being. What leads to a sense of belonging and positive relationships is having strong ties with family and friends or weak relations with colleagues (Sandstrom and Dunn, 2014). For meaning, it fulfils goals which are perceived to be important for one’s self. Dedicating time to something greater than ourselves is when we are at our best. Whether it’s volunteer work, being in a religious group or belonging to a community, these activities serve a purpose (Seligman, 2011). Leading a productive and meaningful life signifies accomplishment. This pathway is pursued for its own sake, even when it brings no positive emotion, no meaning, and nothing in the way of positive relationships (Seligman, 2011). With a sense of accomplishment, individuals must be able to look back on our lives to accomplish well-being. E.g. “I did it and I did it well”. By having the PERMA model taken place into all schools as key pillars, this will not only help with the school community's well-being, but all levels of system will become flourished. By applying this, this should conclude to engagement levels rising, and students reaching their fullest potential.
Geelong Grammar School Study[edit | edit source]
How Can it Be Applied?[edit | edit source]
There really aren’t many applied frameworks for positive education. However, a certain paper provides an overview of the Geelong Grammar School (GGS) Model for Positive Education, applying Positive Education as a whole school approach for five years as an applied framework. Positive emotions, positive accomplishment, positive health, positive engagement, positive purpose and positive relationships, are six well-being domains with school wide practices that have a combination of Explicit and Implicit teachings (Norrish, 2013). These factors are underpinned by a focus on character strength. A framework to direct evaluation and research, and a base for further theoretical discussion and development is what The Model provides, a pathway for applying Positive Education in schools.
Live it, Teach it, Embed it
If schools want to apply a positive mindset on how they do things it has to start with the staff. Geelong Grammar School gave the teachers three simple motions to live by, live it, teach it, and embed it.
Live it. Participating in multi day training programmes to enhance their knowledge and apply Positive Education to not only their work at school, but their personal lives also, which is taught to the majority of staff (both teaching and non teaching) across the whole campus. The school thrives to create a community of practice through activities such as discussion groups and a journal club, and also refresher workshops are provided for the staff at the start of each term to enhance individual understanding and practice.
Teach it. Key ideas and concepts, applying skills and mindsets for flourishing in their lives, and engage meaningfully in exploration and reflection, is what Positive Education helps students to understand (Norrish, 2013). How well-being is taught is further split into explicit and implicit learning. In Year 5 through to 10 is where the explicit teaching of Positive Education is taken place, where students attend regular, timetabled lessons on Positive Education (as they would attend a normal class such as Maths or English). Making links between Positive Psychology theories and curricula in ways that persist true to core academic concepts, is what Positive Education implicitly inserts into the academic curriculum through a broad variety of subjects (Norrish, 2013). For example, in art the word ‘flourishing’ is asked for the students to explore and to design a visual representation of their own understanding, or in Geography, students study how flourishing communities can be represented through the physical environment that towns and cities express.
Embed it. Teachers help to create a culture for well-being across the school community. Some of the most successful and powerful school’s practices include allocating assemblies or chapel services to character strengths, by creating visual displays of gratitude by having ‘what went well’ boards, and then often do projects devoted to random acts of kindness. Being consistent with the whole-school approach, parents are also invited to partake in the multi-day, residential training programmes to get an understanding of Positive Education and personal growth.
Six Domains[edit | edit source]
As the six domains that were mentioned earlierː positive emotions, positive accomplishment, positive health, positive engagement, positive purpose and positive relationships, these principles work together to try and generate flourishing. GGS uses these domains in a variety of ways within the school community.
Recent research has been found that feeling positive emotion has shown that people are mentally and physically feeling better, benefiting in their social relationships, and an improvement in their academic results (Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005). For example, Lyubomirsky et al. (2005) did a meta-analysis of 293 studies (having a sample of 275,000 participants) and discovered that positive emotion benefits work (e.g. productivity), personal (e.g. energy and inspiration), social (e.g. relationships), physical (e.g. immune functioning), and psychological (e.g. confidence and resilience) results. An example of teaching positive emotions is conducted in the Year 10 Positive Education programme at GGS, to understand the importance and how they can benefit from positive emotion, students learn about the broaden and build theory (Fredrickson, 2001). They also study ‘positivity’ (Fredrickson, 2009) as a broad understanding of what positive emotion is and looking for specific strategies to experience more positive emotions on a day to day basis. By students completing Fredrickson’s positivity ratio exercise in different settings across different classes, days and surroundings, they start to develop awareness of their own balance of positive to negative emotions. Without avoiding, overpowering, or rejecting negative reactions or feelings, students are encouraged to develop and enhance positive emotions. The key is to help students understand that all emotions are normal and play important roles in life.
Engaged students usually are the most curious, passionate, and most interested in comparison to all their peers (Norrish, 2013). Very similar to engagement is the theory of flow, it can be defined as “a state of intense absorption and optimal experience that results from taking part in intrinsically motivating challenges, a key feature of which is a close match between individual skill level and task complexity and challenge (Czikszentmihalyi, 1990).” When people are most immersed, concentrated, and eager, flow is to peak the experience of engagement (Bakker, 2005). Applying signature strengths, developing intrinsic motivation, and focus on encouraging flow, this promotes engagement within the GGS Model for Positive Education. Developing this understanding in a classroom setting is applying the signature strengths to enhance engagement. For example, before attending their school camp in Term 2, Year 6 students at GGS interdisciplinary project on character strengths. In ways individuals can action and explore their individual strengths, the students are split into class groups and converse the 24 VIA Character Strengths (Park & Peterson, 2005). By expressing the student’s top strengths, they illustrate what they believe their strengths are in Visual Arts by making ‘shields’. After they’ve done that, students are back in the classroom discussing and developing ways that they can use their ‘shield of strengths’ to fully engage into camp activities and overcoming difficult tasks they may face in the future. Creating pathways to activities that are constant and reliable with their values, strengths, and interests supports the progress of student-efficacy when confronted with adversity, helps students study and apply their strengths.
Developing the individual’s potential and achieving meaningful goals, having the motivation to overcome and persevere challenges and obstacles, and the achievement of success in important life domains, can be defined as positive accomplishment (Norrish, 2013). According to research, there is a strong relationship in regard to flourishing and positive accomplishment. Positive emotions help generate creative and flexible thinking (Fredrickson, 2001): in return, accomplishing all the ‘road bumps’ along the way of creatively thinking and problem solving, leads to positive emotion and well-being (Sheldon et al., 2010). As young people face day to day challenges, helping students to keep motivated and strive for meaningful outcomes is extremely important. Therefore, it is essential that we help out students as much as we can to develop skills which allows them to stay dedicated on goals and help with them coping difficult situations and challenges. For example, Dweck (2006), suggests that praise is significant towards whether a person develops a fixed mindset (people believing their basic qualities, such as their talent or intelligence) or a growth mindset (people believing that their basic abilities such as talent can be developed through hard work). Dweck (2006) recommends that if we focus on praising hard work and effort (e.g. you worked so hard), in comparison to praising on our abilities or outcomes (e.g. you are so clever), this will help develop a growth mindset for all ages. At GGS, to develop an understanding of mindsets and the influence that it has on a broad range of life domains, teaching and non-teaching staff attend workshops. By giving them the opportunity to reflect on their mindset in diverse areas of their lives, and exploring the strategies made by Dweck promotes a growth mindset. The teaching staff also attend a workshop that focuses on the most effective way to give feedback under challenging situations.
There’s evidence that helping and doing things for others and having a sense that the individual’s life has a purpose and it means something, helps with the students psychological and physical health (Ryan & Deci, 2001). Reflecting in a eudaimonic approach to well-being, where a feel of meaning and direction is observed as an essential key to optimal health, has an important purpose in life (Ryan & Deci, 2001). Having a central and focussed vision or mission for life with a sense of direction is what purpose represents (Ryff & Keyes, 1995). In a Year 10 Positive Education programme at GGS, students are questioned to think and reflect on what it means to live a meaningful and purposeful life, to research different sources of purpose, and to compare the relationship between meaning and happiness. Students are asked to write down one long-term and one short-term action that could potentially add purpose into their lives. By doing this exercise, this gives meaning and purpose to the students in partaking community service activities during their time at school (Norrish, 2013).
Having positive relationships creates strong and social skills that help with interacting with others and self (Norrish, 2013). Being isolated is a major risk factor for depression, suicide thoughts, and other symptoms of being mentally ill (Hassed, 2008). As a student in school, being supported and having solid relationships with peers and teachers, is linked to a healthier well-being (Norrish, 2013). The following example involves GGS undertaking a school-wide practice in relation to active-constructive responding (ACR). ACR suggests that responding to others’ in an active, supportive, and genuine interest helps with building strong and stable relationships (Gable & Reis, 2010). ACR is taught to the staff and all senior students at GGS and has become valuable into becoming encouraging communicators and being positive social interactors. Students and staff roleplay different types of scenarios and discuss ways they can truly engage in ACR with their peers. By applying this knowledge to the students and teachers encourages them to be genuinely supportive of the highs and lows of their families, friends, peers and colleagues.
The GGS model defines positive health “as practicing sustainable habits for optimal physical and psychological health” (Norrish, 2013). It is important to promote mental and psychological health due to the high rates of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues during youth ages. The Year 9 students at GGS complete their academic year at a boarding campus centred in the Victorian Highlands. Alongside the academics, there is a main focus on exploring the natural wild life through hiking, camping or skiing. Throughout the whole year, they spend one lesson per week focusing on skills, based on the Penn Resiliency Program (aiming to enhance the skills of resilience by teaching social problem-solving skills when faced with negative thoughts and challenges (PRP; Gillham et al., 2007)), which can be related to real life challenges.
Conclusion[edit | edit source]
Positive Education can only be more balanced benefit the well-being of students, families, teachers, non-teachers, and the whole school community. One limitation that Positive Education has is the low number of schools applying the model due to the lack of evidence. Since psychology is evolving around the world in this present time, schools should definitely think about how they can improve the attitudes and well-being of their students in a psychological view.
See also[edit | edit source]
- Motivation and emotion/Book/2018/Flourishing (Book chapter, 2018)
- Motivation and emotion/Book/2017/Positive thinking as a cause of emotional problems (Book chapter, 2017)
References[edit | edit source]
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Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2008). Hedonia, eudaimonia, and well-being: An introduction. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9(1), 1-11. Web. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10902-006-9018-1
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Sandstrom, G. M., Dunn, E. W. (2014). Social interactions and well-being: The surprising power of weak ties. Personality and Social Psychology Bul-letin. 40(7).pp. 910-922 Web.https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167214529799
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