Teaching Positive Education with PEEC

Tara Clark

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Since the day in 2006 when Professor Martin Seligman first visited Geelong Grammar School and asked his now-famous question: “What do you most want for your students?”, there has been a very deliberate focus on placing wellbeing science at the heart of education at Geelong Grammar School and beyond.

To support this approach to wellbeing, the Institute of Positive Education’s Learn, Live, Teach, Embed framework for sustainable implementation of Positive Education is now being used by hundreds of schools and organisations around the world. Whilst the Learn, Live and Embed processes are largely designed to leverage the role of educators and the school system to enhance the wellbeing of the community, the Teach process is very much aimed at students learning evidence-based skills and knowledge to enhance wellbeing, build resilience and optimise engagement and performance.

As we have learned over the past 11 years, the success and impact of the Teach process hinges on quality of both the curriculum and its delivery. This is why our team is so passionate about the work we have been doing in designing and crafting our Positive Education Enhanced Curriculum (PEEC) and why we are so proud to now be able to share it with schools around the world.

In some ways, the first version of PEEC, launched internationally last week, is the culmination of 11 years of the development and refinement of Geelong Grammar School’s pioneering Positive Education curriculum. There have been some attempts over this time to document what teachers do to explicitly teach wellbeing to their students, but teachers are busy, and their roles are multi-faceted. The fast-paced and flexible nature of schools meant that no one person could sit and immerse themselves in the curriculum design and documentation process that was required to develop a document of the size of PEEC.

Therefore, we are so fortunate to have two writers at the Institute of Positive Education, who have been able to research and develop PEEC over the past two years. The curriculum has always been intended as a resource to support teachers in teaching positive education to students from 4 years old through to their final year of schooling. The lessons are informed by the science of wellbeing and incorporate best-practice teaching strategies. In developing PEEC, we have worked to draw on the practice wisdom and experience of teachers who have taught Positive Education at Geelong Grammar School for the past decade. We have also consulted with students, teachers, school leaders, developmental psychologists, researchers and academics in the fields of Positive Education and Positive Psychology. In this sense, not only has PEEC taken ten years to write but it has had dozens of contributors.

PEEC comprises of over 280 explicit lesson plans; however, for the purpose of this article, we will focus on the elements and considerations of just one, which sits under the Positive Emotions domain. Please click here to download a free sample copy of this lesson plan.

This lesson is included in the ‘Positivity’ enrichment module, which addresses a core focus on cultivating positive emotions and positive experiences. Research shows that positive emotions broaden our thought-action inventories, and help to both negate the effects of adverse emotions and to develop resilience (Cohn and Fredrickson, 2009). The Positive Emotions domain intends to nurture a well-developed understanding of one’s own emotions to develop coping skills and to encourage pro-social behaviour.

At the younger year levels, PEEC positivity lessons are concerned with identifying actions that can generate positive emotions. This progresses to students understanding their responsibility in generating positive emotions and how they can identify and implement a broad range of strategies to do so. These outcomes are outlined in PEEC’s Developmental Scope and Sequence, a document that identifies incremental stages of development according to each domain and the teaching and learning opportunities which facilitate these.

PEEC lessons are deliberately designed to provide autonomy and flexibility for teachers. To assist with this, a glossary of teaching tools and worksheets are provided to assist teachers as they customise PEEC lessons to their unique school context. There are also formative and summative assessment opportunities throughout the suite of PEEC lessons to be drawn on as deemed appropriate.

The introduction to each lesson provides necessary context for students so that they can understand the real-world applications of these core wellbeing concepts and practices. The lessons also incorporate music tracks, Brain Breaks and Mindful Moments as resources for teachers to cultivate the desired classroom environment. For example, the lesson plan entitled Building Positive Emotions for students in Phase 3 (Years 3 and 4) begins with a suggested music track. This can be played to set the tone and provide a clear starting point for the lesson.

PEEC also includes a Resources section with materials that are generally readily available in your classroom or school. For instance, in the ‘Building Positive Emotions’ lesson plan, you will notice that there is a scaffold, or worksheet, provided for teacher use. However, as it is not a requirement that PEEC is taught verbatim, there is the opportunity for teachers to use different or altered scaffolds according to their classroom context.

We hope that PEEC is utilised as it was intended – a resource to value-add to the great work in Positive Education that occurs in every school every day, a resource that will hopefully help teachers to address the question, ‘What do you want most for your students?’.

Tara Clark

Following eight years at Geelong Grammar School as a teacher, Curriculum Coordinator and Assistant Head of House, Tara Clark is currently employed as a Curriculum Writer at the Institute of Positive Education. She lives on King Island, Tasmania with her young family on their beef cattle farm.