The Positive Education Journey so far

Mark Oliphant College has four pillars of philosophy, namely, 

  1. EMPATHY – relationships – self, self and others, self and the world, positive education.
  2. ENTITLEMENT – learning spaces (physical and virtual).
  3. ENGAGEMENT – Structures, project based learning.
  4. EXPLICIT – teaching of skills, consistency, sequential.

Positive Education has been embedded in the first pillar of EMPATHY at the College.

Mark Oliphant College’s Positive Education journey began in July 2012 when Principal Lynne Symons and Maryjane Tenison Woods, Coordinator of College Wellbeing, went to the Adelaide Thinkers in Residence Positive Psychology Conference. The school wanted to acknowledge that, whilst it is important to concentrate on literacy, comprehension and numeracy, there also needs to be a focus on the self-esteem and wellbeing of students.

Mark Oliphant College is continuing to increase the number of staff trained and involved. So far, approximately one third of the teaching staff have completed training with the Institute of Positive Education – Geelong Grammar. Being a B-12 school, each of the four sub-schools approach and embed Positive Education strategies and programmes differently as the requirements of the students of each sub-school are different.

Measures have been put in place so as not to over-burden staff with extra programmes in an already crowded curriculum. For this reason, Positive Education was introduced as a ‘drip-feed’ approach. Having implemented this successfully, the school is now embracing the next stage of ‘immersion’ in the Positive Education philosophies.  

The Positive Education Action Team (PEAT) meet regularly, currently their primary task is to conduct an audit of the Positive Education initiatives across each of the sub-schools, with a view to achieving a seamless programme and a map of the wellbeing curriculum. 

Positive Education has become an integral part of the curriculum and pastoral care at Mark Oliphant College. Highlights have included the introduction of the praise pod, gratitude activities, PERMA trees, flow, mindsets, character strengths, and embedding Positive Education in the Middle Years Catalyst programme.

Positive Education is a work in progress at Mark Oliphant College. This year has seen the implementation of the EPOCH survey, together with wellbeing questions from SAMHRI, with the Middle Years and Senior Years sub-schools as the base line data. Early indicators show that students are quite optimistic and happy. An analysis of the results will show what areas need further attention and will act as a guide for the continued integration of Positive Education. Students in the Primary years sub-school were surveyed with a HOPE scale in both 2014 and 2015 and this data will also inform the teaching priorities for the coming year.

It is still too early in the school’s journey to have firm data on the influence of Positive Education programmes on attendance or academic results. Anecdotally however, it would seem that progress has been remarkable. 

Maryjane Tenison Woods, Coordinator of College Wellbeing, is pleased with how Positive Education has become integrated into the culture of the school.

“I put this down to having more key staff trained, having the concepts and strategies of Positive Education constantly at the forefront of people’s consciousness, having parts of the programme embedded in what we already do, and believing in this in order to affect real change in the futures of our students,” she said.

​December 2015