Dr. Kate Hefferon, PhDLondon Festival of EducationNovember 17th, 2012
“Positive psychology is the scientific study of optimal human functioning [that] aims to discover and promote the factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive.” (Seligman, 1999) Positive psychology focuses on well-being, happiness, flow, personal strengths, resilience, wisdom, creativity etc. as well as characteristics of positive groups and institutions
Unprecedented increase in childhood and adolescent depression 2% of children aged 11–15 and 11% of youth aged 16–24 in the UK suffer a major depressive disorder Childhood and adolescent depression linked to higher rates of academic and interpersonal difficulties, smoking, use of drugs and alcohol and attempted suicide (Green, McGinnity, Meltzer, Ford, & Goodman, 2005; Covey, Glassman, & Stetner, 1998; Garrison, Jackson, Addy, McKeown, & Waller, 1989).
Subjective well being (Deiner, 2009) Psychological well being (Ryff, 2012) Positive emotions (Fredrickson, 2003; 2004; 2009) Character strengths (Peterson & Seligman, 2004) Resilience and flourishing (Reivich & Shatte, Seligman, 2011)
“In one or two words, what do you most want for your children? In one or two words, what do schools teach?” (Seligman, 2011)
“…aims to develop the skills of well-being, flourishing and optimal functioning in children, teenagers and students, as well as parents and educational institutions”. Preventative and enabling developmental approaches Underpinned by empirical validation and evidence based practice
Time limited approaches (3 months- 1 year) Stand alone programmes Curriculum embedment School ethos Primary and secondary University (Gokcen, Hefferon & Aitree, 2012)
Penn Resiliency Programme (USA; UK) (Gillham, Reivich, Seligman & Silver, 1995) Bounce Back! (Australia) (McGrath & Noble, 2003) Making Hope Happen (Lopez et al, 2004) Wisdom Curriculum (Reznitskaya & Sternberg, 2004) Focus on social competence, emotional competence, resilience, optimism, moral and intellectual development
16 years ; 13 RCT’s, 1000’s of participants (Seligman, 2002, 2007; Reivich & Shatté, 2002; Reivich et al, 2007) Reductions in depressive symptoms, anxiety and behavioural problems Reduce the incidence of depression and anxiety by 50% at the three- year follow-up period (Gillham, Reivich & Freres, 2007) https://www.education.gov.uk/pub lications/eOrderingDownload/DCS F-RR094.pdf
Embed in ethos School-wide programmes (involving all staff and pupils) to promote psychological well-being are more likely to be effective than class-based interventions (Wells, Barlow & Stewart-Brown, 2003; Waters, 2011) A positive climate in the school as a whole is associated with teacher and student satisfaction, lower stress levels, and better academic results (Sangsue & Vorpe, 2000)
Increased levels of well-being Fewer conduct problems and emotional issues Enhanced pro-social behaviors Higher academic performance School personnel best to implement rather than outsider Must be well executed and accordingly Need more follow up studies (beyond 6 months) (Durlak et al. 2011)
Relatively new area of psychology Costly to schools Need to be careful not to ‘prescribe’ Only use evidence based interventions Research further into:a) Ageb) Culturec) Special needs
Positive psychology is the science of optimal human functioning Significant amounts of research supporting importance of SWB, positive emotions and strengths Positive psychology is being used in education for stand alone and/or ongoing interventions These are showing positive results in reducing depression and enhancing well being More research needed in areas of secondary school, university and special needs education
University of East London http://www.uel.ac.uk/psychology/ Action for happiness http://www.actionforhappiness.org/ The Well-Being Institute http://www.cambridgewellbeing.org/ CAPP http://www.cappeu.org/ The Young Foundationhttp://www.youngfoundation.org.uk/ New Economics Foundation http://www.neweconomics.org Centre for Confidence and Well-Being http://www.centreforconfidence.co.uk
Hefferon, K. & Boniwell, I. (2011). Positive Psychology: Theory, research and applications. London: Open University Press. Waters, L. (2011). A Review of School-Based Positive Psychology Interventions. The Australian Educational and Developmental Psychologist, 28, 2, 75-90. Gokcen, N., Hefferon, K., & Attree, E.A. (2012). University students’ constructions of ‘flourishing’ in British higher education: an inductive content analysis. International Journal of Wellbeing, 2(1), 1-21.