Positive Education

What is it?

Positive education is an approach to education informed by the growing body of evidence behind positive psychology. It values both academic learning and character development, encouraging a focus on well-being.

Many areas within positive education overlap with other non-academic skill formation programs such as Social Emotional Learning (SEL), Personal Social Health Education (PSHE), Character and Citizenship Education.

The key difference is that positive education uses:  

“empirically validated and scientifically informed interventions and programs from positive psychology that have an impact on student well-being.”

(White & Murray, 2015, p.xiii).

Of course, these interventions and programs can work with and complement existing practices which are already being successfully used within schools. What works best for a school should be taken and used – there is no blueprint or doctrine – it must fit with the values and ethos of the school if it’s going to have a lasting positive impact.

How is it delivered?

Positive education can either be explicitly taught, woven into the school culture/values or both.

Taught: As stand-alone lessons – there are various curriculums available with lesson plans and resources such as Bounce Back!, Personal Well-being Lessons for Secondary Schools, Happy Classrooms Program, Zippy’s and Apple’s Friends, Strengths Gym or the training offered by the Penn Resilience Program.

Blended into core subjects – a good example of this is provided by Jennifer Fox Eades with the use of storytelling to build emotional, social and academic skills.

Caught: Built and embedded into the school ethos, expectations and culture. Research has shown that this is most effective.  A common language is built and the whole school community – children, staff, leadership and parents are encouraged to get involved, creating the opportunity for longer lasting impact.

For those interested in a ‘bigger picture’ sustainable approach to happiness which takes into consideration the impact of our actions on other people and the natural environment, the free ‘Teachers’ Guide to Sustainable Happiness’ by Dr Catherine O’Brien offers useful ideas for lesson plans and activities.

Why is it useful?

  • There are increased reports of anxiety and depression amongst young people
  • Self-reported levels of life satisfaction are low
  • Research has shown that positive psychology practices can enhance well-being
  • Skills such as positive emotions, resilience, optimism, engagement and meaning can be taught to schoolchildren
  • Personal strengths are identified and developed
  • Positive emotions lead to an increased ability to learn/be creative/problem solve
  • Academic learning, character and well-being are equally valued and developed = holistic, well rounded education for children

Two useful documents for further reference are The State of Positive Education (2017) and Global Happiness and Wellbeing Policy Report (2019), Chapter 4: Positive Education.

In the next post on education, some suggested starting points for further exploring positive education will be shared. Online access to practical resources, further reading, webinars and opportunities to network with other educators will provide you with a deeper understanding of what positive education is and how it could be successfully established in your school.

Thanks for reading!

Published by Improve My Well-being

Laura is an experienced mentor and teacher, with a MSc Applied Positive Psychology (Distinction). She enjoys living and working in multicultural environments and is passionate about promoting social well-being. Blogging is her outlet to share and explore well-being initiatives and practices with as many people as possible.

5 thoughts on “Positive Education

  1. Laura, sounds to me you have a full plate in front of you. I love the sound of this positive psychology and how it is actually being taught in higher education. I’ve been a believer of positivity for a LONG time, very aware of how our thoughts do create our reality. I’m intrigued to know more for this is the first time I have every heard of this branch of psychology. Good for you undertaking this venture!!


    1. AmyRose, glad you find the topic interesting – I think you’ll esp enjoy reading more if you’re already a believer in positivity! From reading your blog you ooze it 😀💪🏼 thank you for visiting me on my new adventure-
      I look forward to connecting with you 🌹

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: