Positive Education Explained
Positive Education (PosEd) is the application of psychological research into the conditions under which humans function at their best, within an educational context.
While psychology continues to devote research to the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness and dysfunction, the branch of Positive Psychology balances this by investigating how the majority of the population (who do not suffer from a mental illness), can enhance their psychological development, performance, wellbeing and general satisfaction in life.
Beyond the inherent good in improving human happiness and life satisfaction, Positive Psychology provides scientific evidence that improving mental health contributes to enhanced physical health, greater motivation, engagement and persistence in work and learning, leading to improved work performance and academic outcomes, relationships and success in life. While psychologists have long been interested in improving the human condition, in the past 15 years advances in brain-imaging technology have significantly advanced our understandings of human optimal functioning and these are now being applied by individuals and organisations worldwide to enhance the performance and wellbeing of their communities. Research has also shown that programs founded on Positive Psychology can buffer against anxiety and depression which is an increasing feature of our society, (affecting ~20% of the population) and occurring at increasingly younger ages. There are therefore both moral and practical imperatives to taking a strategic approach to ensuring that we provide an environment which nurtures and sustains the mental health and happiness of our College community.
Positive Education at Good Shepherd
Positive Psychology can be applied at all levels of the organisation and while there are specific frameworks, interventions and programs that can be applied to address particular needs, to truly become a Positive Organisation requires an organisational shift in perspective, changing counterproductive assumptions, behaviours and practices that have become ingrained in schools and society over a long period of time. Positive Education at Good Shepherd is therefore a process of changing our thinking about what makes us happy, healthy and at our best, which then leads to changes in practice. This cultural change requires sensitive management and time in order to genuinely engage the community in embedding and living out positive approaches to our work, learning and life, and reap the full benefit.
The Head of Positive Education position exists to work in collaboration with school leaders, staff, students and parents to bring expert knowledge of Positive Psychology and change management practices to our PosEd development across all aspects of the College (including organisational policy, structures and practices, staff development & wellbeing, curriculum and learning and student mental health and wellbeing).
In 2016 our PosEd journey began in earnest as the College conducted an Appreciative Inquiry to establish shared understandings about what a made a flourishing Good Shepherd Community. This two day inquiry involving staff, College Board members, parents and students was intentionally employed to engage the community in establishing shared meaning, ambitious positive vision and energized relationships to initiate new ways of thinking and acting. Participants collaboratively developed a shared vision of our College at its best from which strategic areas and goals were established that have directly influenced College strategic planning and have stimulated a range of innovations and projects across the College.
A central pillar of Positive Education is a strength-based orientation to all that we do, as a counterbalance to our natural human negativity bias. While negative emotions help us to quickly adapt to threatening situations, our natural bias towards paying attention to these means that we tend to overlook the positive experiences which make up the majority of our lives. When we are experiencing positive emotions, we are naturally more creative, innovative, able to solve problems in new and interesting ways and build stronger supportive relationships which clearly are also to our advantage. Increasing our awareness of our strengths and working to use these more often and in new ways is a scientifically supported method of enhancing our individual performance, success and happiness as well as a guide to how we can similarly develop and employ our collective strengths. For more information and introduction to developing character strengths, please see the links below.
- Why a Strength-based approach is important
- VIA Character Strengths Survey Register
- Activities to explore Character Strengths at home
Other key aspects of Positive Education include understanding the influence of emotions on our thinking and behaviour, the importance of mindset, optimism and hope, setting life goals, generating motivation and resilience and the importance of relationships. These attitudes and skills are as important to staff as to students in improving both performance and wellbeing at Good Shepherd, and parental understanding and support provides vital reinforcement and validation. The College periodically offers information sessions for parents on Positive Psychology and Positive Education; please contact the College for more information.
Head of Positive Education