Character Strengths in the Classroom

Developing and using Character
Strengths in the classroom
Jock McGinty
MSc Teaching of
Friday Breakout
event one: 3.00pm
J.F. Kennedy
‘We choose to
go to the moon’
• Over the past 20 years, changes in the U.K.
and world economies have raised the stakes
for educational attainment.
• U.K. adolescents have responded by
dramatically increasing their educational
aspirations and expectations to go to
• Students need the capacity to strive for, and
succeed at, long-term and higher-order goals
so they can persist in the face of the array of
challenges they encounter in their studies and
Martin Seligman and positive
Introduction to Positive Psychology
•Positive psychology is the scientific study of
optimal human functioning. It aims to discover
and promote factors that allow individuals,
communities, societies to thrive and flourish.
• Haidt and Gable (2005)
Positive Education
•Schools are not places just to learn the skills of
achievement or to use as a stepping stone for a
career, but institutions to educate children on
how to live lives signified by good character and
•What do positive education and positive
schools look like?
Positive education and schools
•Positive Psychology, when applied to schools,
focuses on the intentional cultivation of student
wellbeing and resilience, their
intellectual/cognitive strengths and character
strengths and the development of their sense of
meaning or purpose in life.
•McGrath 2009
Authentic Happiness
• Positive emotion
• Engagement
• Meaning
• Life satisfaction
• Subjective well being
Well being
Positive emotion
Chris Peterson and Nansook Park
VIA Inventory of Strengths for Youth
Barbara L. Fredrickson
The Broaden and
Build Theory
Is There a Critical
Positivity Ratio for
Grit perseverance resilience
• Your
‘I can’
than your
is more important
Seligman and
Duckworth (2005)
• Academic performance
depends in large part on
students’ self-control or
concluding that “a major
reason for students falling
short of their intellectual
potential [is] their failure to
exercise self-discipline” p.939
Ratings of character strengths
Top 5 typically
• Humour
• Love
• Gratitude
• Honesty
• Curiosity
Bottom 5 typically
• Perseverance
• Prudence
• Love of learning
• Self regulation
• Spirituality
True Grit
Angela Lee Duckworth
• A never yielding form of self-discipline
• Typifies high levels of accomplishment
• As essential as IQ to high achievement
Grit versus self-discipline
•Resilience is the process and capacity for
successful adaption despite challenging
1. Think individually of 4 factors that are required
for your students to become resilient
2. Discuss these factors and settle on the most
important 5
3. Feedback for group discussion
Foundations for positive education
• Foundation One: Mastery and competence
• Foundation two: Positive emotions
• Foundation Three: Strengths and engagement
• Foundation Four: Meaning and purpose
Developing mastery and competence
through skills
• Social skills such as negotiation and positive discussion
• Skills that lead to mastery and a sense of success such
as thinking skills, reflection and metacognition
• Goal–achievement skills such as planning, setting timelines, solving problems and seeking assistance
• Resilience skills such as optimistic thinking, courage,
coping skills, helpful thinking
Activities to develop resilient students
• Using the ABC model
ABC model
• An activating event (A) occurs, our beliefs (B)
influence the consequences (C) in two ways
• how we feel (emotional response) and how we
act (behavioural response).
• If we are able to be more mindful of our beliefs,
evaluate how realistic our beliefs are and
consider alternative evidence, we might be able
to detect patterns that may be counterproductive
and stop the downward spiral that could occur.
• A = Activating Event
• I can’t answer this question on explanations of
• B = Belief/thought
• C = Consequence feelings
• D = Dispute
• A = Activating Event
• I have my A2 Psychology exam approaching
• B = Belief/thought
• ‘I’m going to fail! This is unbearable, I can’t stand it. I’ll never be able to
prepare for it, not with life the way it is right now. I’m useless, why am I
bothering? There’s no point.
• C = Consequence feelings
• Anxious – can’t sleep – can’t focus.
• D = Dispute
Possible activating events in the
•Thinking traps
• Jumping to conclusions (coming to a conclusion without
gathering sufficient evidence)
• Magnifying and minimizing (tendency to devote greater
focus on bad events and lesser focus on good events)
• Externalizing (blaming others or external circumstances for
the outcome of events)
• TASK: Discuss examples of when your students fall into
these traps
Using critical questions
• These questions prompt people to correct their faulty
beliefs by testing the accuracy of the beliefs and
evaluating their usefulness.
• TASK: discuss how you would use critical questions for
each of these thinking traps
• Jumping to conclusions
• Magnifying and minimizing
• Externalizing
• How does this help build resilience?
Putting it in perspective
• On your own, identify 4 ways in which you put
students work and challenges into perspective
• Discuss your thoughts and settle on 5
• How does putting things into perspective build
• Can you see any similarities with AfL?
Improve your well being
Other techniques
• Best possible selves
• Gratitude letter