My favorite Subject in School? Happiness, of course!

If you are lucky, Positive Psychology will be coming to a school near you soon. Positive Education as part of Positive Psychology seems to be really taking off at this point in time. There is an early article by Seligman et al. (Positive education: positive psychology and classroom interventions) – but just recently, the International Positive Education Network (IPEN) was launched. According to its website, the goal of IPEN is

to bring together teachers, parents, academics, students, schools, colleges, universities, charities, companies and governments to promote positive education. Our goals are to support collaboration, change education practice and reform government policy.

On the question “Why Positive Education?” the website states:

Positive education challenges the current paradigm of education, which values academic attainment above all other goals. Drawing on classical ideals, we believe that the DNA of education is a double helix with intertwined strands of equal importance:

 

IPEN

  1. The fulfillment of intellectual potential through the learning of the best that has been thought and known.
  2. The development of character strengths and well-being, which are intrinsically valuable and contribute to a variety of positive life outcomes.

For quite a long time, Geelong Grammar School in Australia has been the hallmark of applied Positive Education. But more schools shall follow soon. Even in Germany – which typically does not pick up Positive Psychology topics that fast – has seen some Positive Education initiatives as early as 2007. We have a movement called Schulfach Glück (“School Subject Happiness”) which is backed by the “Fritz-Schubert-Institute”. They bring a positive curriculum especially to primary schools, helping teachers to teach topics to their classes such as joy and motivation, curiosity and courage, and mindfulness and respect.

By now, Fritz Schubert has authored three books on this initiative. The effectiveness of the program was recently evaluated in a study comparing classes who completed the curriculum to control groups. The treatment groups displayed higher subjective well-being and self-esteem at the end of the school year. The research article is written in German, but there´s an English abstract:

Applying a quasi-experimental pre-posttest design, we examined the effectiveness of a new teaching unit called school subject happiness. The investigation took place at two vocational schools that had established this subject in the school year 2010/11. Effects of one school year of instruction in the school subject happiness on students´ well-being, self-esteem, and self-efficacy are reported. In addition, a moderation effect of the personality traits emotional stability and extraversion was investigated. A total of 106 vocational school students who belonged either to the treatment or the control group participated in the study. At the beginning and at the end of the school year 2010/11, all students completed questionnaires. Beneficial effects were found for affective components of subjective well-being and self-esteem. Furthermore, the effects on self-esteem and cognitive components of well-being were moderated by emotional stability. Students who reported higher emotional stability benefited more from the new teaching unit. For self-efficacy no effect was found. The results are interpreted as partial effectiveness of the program.

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