Our Connected Schools are on a journey learning about and applying positive education in our own contexts. It has been a long journey for some of our schools, while others are at the early stages of this life changing work.
Research over many years by people such as Dr Martin Seligman, Carol Dweck and Barbara Fredrickson outline theories such as well-being to help us understand more of this work. Research clearly shows that “Positive emotions undo the physiological effects of negative emotion.” (Fredrickson, 2004) Every person has a built-in range or threshold for well-being, everyone is different. Our well-being range depends on resilience, recent life events and how well key factors are working in our life. We are all active participants in improving our own well-being.
Our brain and all its intricate workings are essential to the work of positive education. The brain’s fuel is:
• Positive emotions make us feel good and expand our thinking
• Stress and negative emotions narrow our thinking and deplete our energy
When we cultivate our positive emotions we use our ‘happy chemicals’ in our brain, which in turn impacts our negative emotion. The positive emotions we can experience are e.g. joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe and love.
Positive Education is not ‘happiology’. Positive education works on the premise that the following factors promote learning and academic success (Bernard & Walton, 2011)
• Positive emotions
• Positive relationships
• Character strengths
Our focus on Positive Education and the PERMA framework enhances our student’s well-being by focusing on Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment (PERMA). PERMA helps us move from ‘floundering to flourishing’.
How is this valid to learning in schools? Positive education is a theory which brings together excellent teaching practice and the science of positive psychology. Through positive education, we are training our students and ourselves to focus on practices and behaviours which will enhance learning opportunities, positive relationships and problem-solving throughout our life. Positive education is proactive pastoral care!
Director of Learning
Good Shepherd Lutheran School