LEARN IT, LIVE IT, TEACH IT, EMBED IT

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Positive Education is an intentional focus on student and staff wellbeing.  There are many facets to Positive Education and many ways to successfully implement ‘Pos Ed’ into any school community.  The applied framework of 'Learn It, Live It, Teach It, Embed It' assists us at GGS to design and review our ongoing implementation of Positive Education

Learn It

A natural starting point for a school community is for the staff (both teaching and non-teaching) to learn the key tenets of Positive Education.  A condition of employment at GGS is for all staff to complete a three-day residential course titled 'Discovering Positive Education', which is led by our School’s in-house training team.  A key goal of this initial training course is to kindle curiosity in each staff member as they explore the elements of their personal wellbeing and discover the science of positive psychology.  Over the past year, we have also offered residential weekend Positive Education training courses for our parents.  These courses enable parents to gain a deeper understanding of Pos Ed which will hopefully directly assist their own wellbeing and indirectly assist the wellbeing of their family and friends, particularly their children.  Parents who learn Positive Education are able to share a common language with their children and also report a strong sense of connection with the School which is then associated with increased student engagement.

Take-away reflection:  How can your school help the adult members of its community (teaching and non-teaching staff and parents) to personally experience and benefit from the key tenets of Positive Education?

Live It

Living Pos Ed can mean many things.  It can include: harnessing one’s character strengths in difficult situations; spotting and acknowledging character strengths use in others; fostering strong relationships with family, friends and colleagues; experiencing a broad range of positive emotions; nurturing a healthy lifestyle; practising habits of mindfulness; developing resilient internal resources; promoting deep engagement in work and leisure activities; striving towards goals which are aligned with one’s purpose; and contributing in a variety of ways to communities and projects which provide personal meaning.

Having started the journey of learning about Positive Education the aim is then for individuals to roll up their sleeves and endeavour to live by principles which support their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others.  The late Professor Chris Peterson was well-known for his phrase "Positive Psychology is not a spectator sport." We concur and encourage Chris' point of view and encourage all members of our community to actively work on their own wellbeing.  As wellbeing is a deeply personal subject it is necessary for individuals to tailor activities to their preferred style and situations.  As individuals practise living Pos Ed they gain a deeper and more nuanced understanding of each of the components of wellbeing and this enables them to authentically role-model and teach Pos Ed to the students.

Take-away reflection:  How can your school environment assist and encourage individuals to actively nurture their own wellbeing?  How are staff role-modelling the principles of Positive Education?  How are you fostering your own wellbeing?

Teach It

Each school must determine how they wish to teach the key skills and knowledge of Positive Education to their students.  At GGS we refer to the explicit and implicit teaching of Pos Ed to our students.  The explicit delivery occurs in dedicated Positive Education classes from Years 5 through to Year 10, with students in Years 5 & 6 receiving half hour classes each week; students in Years 7,8 and 9 receiving one hour classes each fortnight and our Year 10 students receiving 90 minute classes each week.  This culminates in over 150 hours of explicit Positive Education timetabled classes.  Explicit delivery can also occur through dedicated Pos Ed Focus Days or through formal Pos Ed Pastoral Care sessions.  At each of our Junior School campuses and at each year level in our Secondary School we have an annual Positive Education Focus Day based around a particular wellbeing theme.  Themes currently include: Grow Your Mind Day; Five Ways to Wellbeing; One for all and all for one; Exploring Character Strengths and Community Wellbeing.  Where appropriate student volunteers form committees to help plan, prepare and run these dedicated Focus Days.  At GGS, our secondary students also participate in three Pos Ed tutorials per term, these sessions are theme-based and are run by individual tutors who are responsible for the care and development of a small team of approximately 12 students.

An important extension to the explicit delivery of Pos Ed is the implicit teaching of wellbeing concepts within the traditional academic subject areas.  At GGS, each academic department is charged with the responsibility of making appropriate links with Positive Education in their subject area.  This can take the form of looking at Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness index in Geography; completing a Family Tree of Signature Character Strengths in History; exploring the concept of Optimism in Art or understanding the impact of positive and negative emotions on the body’s chemistry in Science.  It can also include fostering growth mindsets; incorporating brief pauses of mindful meditations into classrooms; promoting a sense of gratitude and focusing on effective feedback such as process praise.  The goal is for the implicit teaching of Pos Ed to complement the explicit delivery of Pos Ed classes.

Take-away reflection:  How can your school ‘teach’ Positive Education to its students?  What is a logical starting point for your school?  What is the next step to enhance what your school is already doing in teaching wellbeing to its students?

Embed It

To complete an integrated approach to Positive Education it is important for key principles to be embedded across the many facets of school life.  Our goal at GGS is for students to almost not even recognise our intentional focus on wellbeing as it is just the way we do things here, it is ‘in the water’, it is the way staff and students relate to one another and the way wellbeing is considered and discussed in each element of the school’s co-curriculum.  

At GGS, we continue to review and update our policy and procedure documents in light of the principles of wellbeing. We aim to have a congruence between what is being verbalised and what is being practised. In recent years we have modified our pastoral care, staff appraisal, professional learning and student recognition policies.

With all staff trained in the principles of Pos Ed, they can refer to a common language with students whether it be in the classroom, on the sporting field, in the school yard or on the stage.  Careful consideration should also be given to the implicit wellbeing messages displayed in classrooms and school buildings.  Regular references to the science and practice of wellbeing in school newsletters and school assemblies help reinforce the importance of individual and community wellbeing.

Take-away reflection:  What wellbeing messages are communicated within your school culture and school environment?  In what ways can you embed Pos Ed messages within your co-curricular programme?

Of course, implementing Positive Education in any school or organisation is an ongoing process and requires the commitment and teamwork of all stakeholders.  Each of the four distinct elements of the Applied Framework detailed above require enduring attention and we wish all schools and individuals every success on their personal journey.  At GGS, we have found it a tremendously meaningful and enjoyable journey and one we are grateful to be on as we continue ‘learning to flourish’. 

More newsletter items

Why an Institute of Positive Education?
Welcome to the first edition of our Institute of Positive Education’s enewsletter. As ‘Friends of our Pos Ed Institute’ we are excited to be able to ...
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Exploring Melbourne Uni’s Pos Ed Certificate
It was exciting for the Institute of Positive Education here at GGS to be involved in the launch of the first postgraduate university course in Positi ...
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Certificate in Whole Person Positive Psychology
We are thrilled to announce a partnership with Dr Tal Ben-Shahar and the Wholebeing Institute to exclusively bring to Australia the world-renowned Cer ...
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Pos Ed in Action - The Science of Gratitude
This piece has been written by Lexia Edwards, a science teacher at Mt Barker High School in South Australia, about gratitude and the ways that it is s ...
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Pos Ed in the Community
On Sunday 7 September 2014 the first Positive Education in the Community course was run at the Corio campus with nearly 90 OGGs and friends.
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Pos Ed Focus Day - Year 11
The Year 11 Pos Ed Focus Day was organised primarily by Year 11 students for fellow Year 11 students to bring a bit of positivity into their peers' li ...
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Character Strengths challenge
This week, think of a goal you want to achieve. Write down your top signature strengths and reflect on each of them in terms of your goal.
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Training opportunities
Upcoming training opportunities offered by the Institute of Positive Education and its partners.
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We are on Facebook
The Institute of Positive Education recently launched our own Facebook page.
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The Insight Series
The Institute of Positive Education presents the Insight Series - guest lectures designed to inform, inspire and provide insight.
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RECOMMENDED PODCAST

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‘Sonja Lyubomirsky on the Myths of Happiness’ on the Greater Good Podcast Series recorded February 2013 and is accessible here

The Greater Good Science Center has been operating from the University of California, Berkeley, since 2001. The non-profit organisation has a strong commitment to understanding both how science can serve us in better understanding social and emotional wellbeing, as well as how to help others apply findings and insights from science for the betterment of people’s lives.  In this interview leading researcher in Positive Psychology, Sonja Lyubomirsky, discusses her new book, The Myths of Happiness. For example, Lyubomirsky speaks about the two main myths around happiness. One type of myth revolves around our beliefs that happiness is contingent upon some future event, e.g. “I will be happy when I have a house.” Another type of myth refers to our predictions that we will be unhappy if a negative event occurs, e.g. “I will be unhappy if I lose my house.” Lyubomirsky refers to how research has demonstrated that humans are often more resilient than we think.  Over the course of the interview, Lyubomirsky discusses the complexity of pursuing happiness in terms of how individuals differ and the effects of gender, culture and biology.

RECOMMENDED READING

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Mindful Learning: Reduce stress and improve brain performance for effective learning
Dr Craig Hassed & Dr Richard Chambers

Mindful Learning provides a comprehensive guide for educators with varied experience and knowledge of mindfulness practices. The authors map out how mindfulness and education meet through defining and exploring the meaning of terms such as education, mindfulness, learning, attention, stress and memory.  This approach allows us to understand the interconnections and integration between mindfulness and learning suggested in the book’s title Mindful Learning.  Whilst a great deal of practical exercises are provided, the authors go beyond describing and justifying mindfulness as an additional technique or program which needs to be added into the curriculum.  Through interweaving sound research in the fields of learning and mindfulness, the book continually increases our awareness of the effects of being present as an educator. In this way, the book carefully and succinctly outlines how mindfulness is most powerfully learned through both explicit teaching such as training attention and implicit teaching such as role-modelling moment to moment awareness. The authors comment, “Most of what we teach we actually do without awareness.”  This book offers its reader the chance to learn about current research and practice, as well as reflect upon and improve their own lives in terms of teaching, health and home. 

Hassed, C. & Chambers, R. (2014). Mindful Learning: Reduce stress and improve brain performance for effective learning. Wollombi: Exisle Publishing.