PROJECTS AND STUDIES

INDEPENDENT EVALUATION OF POSITIVE EDUCATION 

A landmark study funded by the Australian Research Council and lead by Dianne Vella-Brodrick and other researchers from the University of Melbourne and Monash University is exploring the impact of the GGS Positive Education program on the wellbeing and learning outcomes of students at the School, as well as using a randomised control trial (RCT) methodology to evaluate an adapted version of the School’s Positive Education program at a number of other schools, to explore whether the program could translate to wider rollout. This project will go a significant way to addressing the questions of whether the programme is effective, how it can be made most effective, and its capacity to translate to other school settings.

Preliminary findings from the first year of this research project are now available, and are very promising as well as indicating areas where we can strengthen our programme even further. Click here (PDF 1.7MB) to view the research snapshot or click here (PDF 6.7MB) to view the full report. The findings suggest:

  • That the Year 9 Timbertop program is associated with substantial gains in wellbeing for students over the course of the year, even for those students who are new to GGS in that year.
  • These positive effects diminished over Years 10, and students suggested a range of ideas around how the Year 10 positive education curriculum could be enhanced, including more interactive class formats, and these suggestions have now been implemented. 
  • Of concern, Year 11 students, who currently do not receive explicit positive education classes, experienced declining levels of wellbeing, which may point to the need for “booster” sessions during this year. 

These are preliminary findings from an ongoing 3-year study, and future results will provide further insight into how positive education impacts students’ wellbeing over time, as well as how the GGS positive education curriculum translates to a neighbouring Government school setting. 

SCHOOLS AS POSITIVE INSTITUTIONS

As well as addressing the wellbeing of individual students, Positive Education also aims to operate at a systemic level by promoting schools as positive institutions. School staff are important in creating wellbeing in a school environment. Beyond the value of teachers, staff in non-teaching roles can also be beneficial role models for students and help to create and support a positive school environment. 

To date, there have been limited opportunities to explore Positive Education at the organisational level, and the School is rare in providing the opportunity for researchers to investigate Positive Education as a whole school approach. Paige Williams, PhD candidate with the Centre for Positive Psychology at the University of Melbourne, is exploring how schools can promote staff wellbeing through organizational pathways, such as the development of a flourishing organisational culture, and individual level initiatives, such as Positive Psychology training aimed at promoting positive psychological capacities in staff. 

Results of one study based on data collected at the School suggest that both organisational and individual-level pathways independently relate to increased wellbeing for school staff. There was also some evidence of a small synergistic effect, suggesting that while schools might target developing positive psychological capacities in employees or target the organization’s culture, further benefit may arise by using both organizational level and individual level pathways.

Download our research snapshot (PDF 2.2MB)

Full details of this research can be accessed here: 

A Longitudinal Examination of the Association Between Psychological Capital, Perception of Organizational Virtues and Work Happiness in School Staff
P Williams, ML Kern, L Waters - Psychology of Well-Being, 2015

EXPLORING STAFF EXPERIENCES OF POSITIVE EDUCATION

Elizabeth Clancy (Master of Organisational Psychology thesis project at Deakin University) explored how schools can promote staff engagement with Positive Education. The findings contribute to understanding how best to support teachers during the implementation of whole-school intervention programs such as Positive Education.

This case study suggests that there may be significant benefits to implementing Positive Education as a whole-school approach, with a focus on both student and staff wellbeing. Teaching and enabling staff to practise Positive Education skills enhances the potential for role-modelling and integration across the formal curriculum and pastoral care responsibilities. In addition, potential increases in employee wellbeing, both personal and professional, are likely to increase engagement and efficacy. Although applying Positive Education at a whole-school level is more challenging, these potential benefits would appear worth the investment.

Download our research snapshot (PDF 1.7MB)

ENGAGING PARENTS IN POSITIVE EDUCATION

As her Master of Educational Psychology thesis, Ms Karina Dubroja (University of Melbourne) explored how a positive psychology program for parents impacted on the wellbeing of the school community. This is the first study to explore the impact of Positive Education training for parents and the current small-scale data collection provides valuable early insights. Overall, the findings showed promising preliminary evidence for the benefits of engaging parents in Positive Education, as well as indicating areas for potential improvement and program development. These results will help to inform decisions on how and why it is important to strategically engage parents in Positive Education.

Download our research snapshot  (PDF 626.6KB)

DO STUDENTS CONTINUE TO USE POSITIVE EDUCATION SKILLS ONCE THEY LEAVE SCHOOL?

Ms Nina Stevanovic (University of Melbourne) is currently exploring how wellbeing skills learned in adolescence relate to young peoples’ capacity to meet the challenges of the young adulthood period. For example, do young people continue to draw on positive education skills once they leave school? Do they continue to see them as relevant to their new environment? This study will involve interviewing a small sample of recent Geelong Grammar School graduates. The findings will offer insights into how schools can help to sustain positive changes achieved through Positive Education beyond the secondary school years.