Recent research in the area of positive psychology underlines the interconnected and highly correlated links between a positive emotional style and an individual’s psychological well-being. Cross sectional studies have shown that “happy” people tend to be more socially engaged and function better in their lives (Huppert, 2009). A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies has shown that happiness engenders the behaviours and beliefs that precede success in work and life (Lyubomirsky et al., 2005). Experimental studies using mood induction techniques have found that positive emotion significantly broadens attention (Rowe et al., 2007), enhances cognitive processing capabilities resulting in more creative and flexible problem solving (Isan & Daubman, 1984, Isan et al., 1987), increases taught action repertoires (Fredrickson & Branigan, 2005), improves learning (Bryan et al., 1996), boosts task performance and self-efficacy (Bryan & Bryan, 1991)
The principles and exercises of positive psychology have been taught to teachers in the Geelong Grammar school and to drill Sergeants in the US army resulting in positive outcomes to the well-being of both organisations (Seligman, 2012). Barsade (2002) would suggest this is aided by emotional contagion, the transfer of moods between groups through a process known as the ripple effect. Drawing on these research findings the study outlined here aims to examine the potential benefits of promoting the principles of positive psychology with pre-service secondary school teachers in Ireland.
Previous research suggests that training teachers to teach positive psychology techniques to students significantly reduces and even prevents symptoms of depression, hopelessness and anxiety while increasing optimism, engagement in learning, academic achievement and social skills (Brunwasser et al., 2009, Seligman et al., 2009). Teaching undergraduate pre-service teachers positive psychology may develop their openness to change as research suggests that positive psychological constructs such as optimism, hope, efficacy and resilience are malleable and open to positive change.