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Integrating positive psychology into schools: Implications for practice



Traditional approaches for working with children and families in the schools focus on problems and disturbance. The concept of positive psychology as a way to change this focus is offered through exploration of its integration within school psychology. Specifically, the application of positive psychology can form the basis of preventive practices within the school setting. Examples of this application are provided within common roles of the school psychologist (consultation, direct work, educational assessment and planning). © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Psychol Schs 41: 163–172, 2004.
St. John’s University
Traditional approaches for working with children and families in the schools focus on problems
and disturbance. The concept of positive psychology as a way to change this focus is offered
through exploration of its integration within school psychology. Specifically, the application of
positive psychology can form the basis of preventive practices within the school setting. Exam-
ples of this application are provided within common roles of the school psychologist (consulta-
tion, direct work, educational assessment and planning). © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
School psychology has experienced many paradigm shifts (see Reschly & Ysselydke, 2002).
However, one major change that has not yet had significant impact on school psychology practice
is the field of positive psychology. Positive psychology contradicts the historical and traditional
emphasis of assessment and intervention practices on pathology. Instead, positive psychology
focuses on the unique positive characteristics of the individual and maximizes his/her potential.
This paper proposes a paradigm shift in school psychology toward positive psychology, offering
examples regarding its fit within traditional roles of the school psychologist.
Positive Psychology Overview
The disease model of repairing mental illness has driven psychology for the past half-century.
Psychology (including school psychology) has viewed the world though problem-focused or def-
icit lenses—but focusing strictly on pathology may not provide a complete understanding of all
aspects of human functioning. That is, not everyone surrenders and raises the white flag when
faced with life’s misfortunes. Rather, most people persevere and succeed in the face of adversity.
Such traits have accounted for the survival of the human race (Sheldon & King, 2001). However,
if perseverance and human excellence are so important to the survival of our species, why have
psychologists failed to attend to such aspects until recently? The three main goals of psychology
before World War II were to (1) cure mental illness, (2) make the lives of all people more fulfilling,
and (3) enhance and identify human excellence. Unfortunately, after the war, the goal to make the
lives of all people better and more complete was abandoned (Seligman, 2002a; Seligman & Csik-
szentmihalyi, 2000) in lieu of emphasis on curing mental illness.
This emphasis does not imply that the identification and treatment of pathology was harmful
to psychology or school psychology. On the contrary, following the disease model advanced the
field of psychology and made a great contribution to society. We now have a good understanding
of the etiologies of many psychological disorders. Also, we have developed empirically based
interventions for many disorders. Given these advances, it is good that psychologists receive
training in the diagnosis and treatment of psychological disorders because many people fall prey
to such problems (Sheldon & King, 2001), but such contributions are not without limitations. By
focusing on people’s weaknesses, psychology (including school psychology) has abandoned part
of its original mission (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000).
It is understandable that the positive aspects of original goals of psychology have not been
fulfilled given the lack of evidence to support its effectiveness (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi,
The authors would like to thank Dr. Mark Sciutto for many helpful comments regarding earlier drafts of the manuscript.
Correspondence to: Mark D. Terjesen, PhD, Department of Psychology, Marillac Hall SB36, St. John’s University,
8000 Utopia Parkway, Jamaica, NY 11439. E-mail:
Psychology in the Schools, Vol. 41(1), 2004 © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Published online in Wiley InterScience ( DOI: 10.1002/pits.10148
2000). For example, a search with no restrictions in PsycINFO for “positive psychology” resulted
in only 52. Thus, if limited empirical support exists, why should school psychology expand its
parameters and consider integrating positive psychology? Many areas of practice in school psy-
chology focus on identifying the etiologies of problems experienced by children and their fami-
lies. By expending our resources researching factors that lead to psychological distress rather than
the preventive and protective factors that buffer against pathology, we may be shortsighted and
hinder the advancement of the field. We may lack the knowledge necessary to teach students,
parents, and teachers the skills required to maximize their potential and indirectly alter their
psychological distress.
In summary, for psychology to work toward fulfillment of all of its original goals, (school)
psychology needs to be more proactive rather than reactive. For example, school psychologists
may benefit from following a prevention model that advanced public health. By following the
disease model for the past 50 years, psychologists have developed many empirically based strat-
egies to deal with many problems effectively that plague our nation’s youth. However, by follow-
ing the disease model, psychology has failed to gain an understanding of the prevention of such
problems (Seligman & Peterson, 2000). Psychology has yet to fully learn about protective factors
(optimism, hope, and resilience) that may buffer individuals against adversity and pain. Taking a
positive approach and investigate such factors, we can expand our ability to promote more fulfill-
ing development in all students, not just those considered being a problem. This requires a shift in
the field, asking practitioners, trainers, and researchers to think outside the traditional service
delivery models.
Positive Psychology and Prevention
Enhancing the strengths and virtues of children can accomplish effective prevention. Focus-
ing on children’s strengths can increase the chances that they will successfully manage difficulties
they confront in the present and how they will cope with future battles. Seligman and Peterson
(2000) suggested that psychologists become aware that the principles of positive psychology
guide many services (e.g., school consultation) that they already provide. However, the “fix it”
principle currently dominates those services. Instead, focusing on the strengths of the individual
and of the school setting will not only foster the development of healthier relationships between
the school psychologist and his/her clients, but also promote more successful outcomes. More-
over, amplifying the target individual’s strengths rather than focusing on repairing their weak-
nesses may lead to more effective treatment. That is, nurturing human strengths such as optimism,
courage, future mindedness, honesty, and perseverance serve as more efficacious buffers against
mental illness as compared to medication or therapy (Seligman, 1998).
The concept of resilience holds great potential for work with children in a preventive manner.
Masten and Reed (2002) proposed that the adversities that undermine the basic human systems
(health, education, nutrition) for development are the greatest areas of risk for children. They
concluded that, “efforts to promote competence and resilience in children at risk should focus on
strategies that prevent damage to, restore, or compensate for threats to these basic systems” (p. 83).
Masten and Reed offered examples such as prenatal and ongoing medical care, health/nutritional
programs, and quality education as devices to “promote the protection of brain development,
attention, thinking, and learning that appear to play a powerful role in the lives of children who
successfully negotiate challenges to development” (p. 83). These strategies do not only reduce the
risk likelihood but also seek to have an impact on the child’s life through affecting the major
processes that exist.
Through changing how we view working with children from a remediation/intervention
philosophy to a process establishment one, Masten and Reed (2002) proposed that we can promote
164 Terjesen, Jacofsky, Froh, and DiGiuseppe
long-time effects on children. They briefly describe a mastery motivation system that would enhance
self-efficacy and student motivation through a series of graduated mastery experiences. This sys-
tem could be applied to academics, athletics, and socialization activities, but a greater understand-
ing of the system is essential.
Applications of Flow and Positive Affectivity to Schools
Among the core terms of positive psychology are those of “flow” and “positive affectivity.”
Nakamura and Csikszentmihalyi (2002) described life through the concept of flow, in which: “a
good life is one that is characterized by complete absorption in what one does” (p. 89). It is in
essence an intrinsically motivated activity. Athletes often describe experiences such as “being in
the zone,” which is similar to “flow.” Kahn (2000) reported that the principles of “flow” already
exist is some applied settings, such as the Montessori schools. Nakamura & Csikszentmihalyi
(2002) described the Key school in Indianapolis in which the “goal is to foster flow by influencing
both the environment and the individual.” Teachers create a learning atmosphere that fosters flow
through activity choice and has children engage in “serious play.” (For a complete discussion of
the Key school, see Whalen (1999) and Csikszentmihaly, Rathnude, & Whalen (1993).) Perhaps
greater attention to the key characteristics of such applied examples will help us understand how
to promote “flow” for all students.
Stable individual differences in the experience of positive emotions are described as positive
affectivity (Watson, 2002). That is, people that are high on this dimension have frequent episodes
of intense positive emotional experiences. Watson reported that life conditions do not control
positive affectivity levels. That is, people do not require much to feel cheerful, enthusiastic, and
interested in life. This suggests that anyone can experience high levels of positive affectivity. So,
how does a school psychologist work to raise the level of positive affectivity of those with whom
that they work? Watson (2000) suggested that inducing a state of high positive affect is easier
through action (doing) rather than cognition (thinking). Watson describes research that suggests
social behavior and physical activity/exercise can both be used to increase positive affectivity.
Watson also posited that to strive toward, not necessarily achieving goals, is crucial for happiness
and positive affectivity. The school psychologist can work with students to build high positive
affect through attention to “doing.” Although students may reflect back on experiences, the key
may be to get them to be active: socially, academically, and athletically. That is, using the mastery-
achievement strategies discussed earlier, school psychologists can make sure that students’current
levels of proficiency are matched to tasks that they are going to attempt.
Fredrickson (2002) posited that positive emotions signal optimal functioning for both short
and long term benefits. School psychologists should work with clients to develop positive emo-
tions for achieving growth and improved functioning. However, Fredrickson carefully pointed out
that people (or a psychologist for that matter) cannot simply will themselves to experience a
specific emotion. Therefore, any emotional induction techniques are indirect by nature. Fredrick-
son highlighted the importance of the idea of contentment and how it might cause greater cogni-
tive changes. Contentment “calls forth the urge to savor the present moment and integrate those
momentary experiences into an enriched appreciation of one’s place in the world” (p. 129). The
school psychologist could develop a program that works on increasing students’ pleasant events
(socializing, exercising, creating) and allows them to experience these events. The contentment
that they experience might increase their optimism and overall motivation to pursue additional
positive experiences, possibly in previously avoided arenas
Many concepts in positive psychology might receive acknowledgment of their importance,
but putting positive psychology into practice in the schools can be difficult. School psychologists
need to be part B.F. Skinner and part P.T. Barnum. That is, they need to demonstrate empirically
Integrating Positive Psychology into Schools 165
the effectiveness of positive psychology in the schools while also “selling” this approach to the
community. Below we address the applications of positive psychology to the roles of the school
psychologist in consultation, direct work, and educational assessment and planning.
Positive Psychology and Consultation
School psychologists often use the concept of reinforcing the positive in school settings.
Conducting consultations with parents and teachers often relies heavily on this concept. However,
as often happens with “traditional” school consultation, reinforcing students’ strengths is utilized
as a buffer to soften the blow of the negative news that is to follow or is suggested as a potential
adjunct remedy for decreasing already existing negative behaviors. That is, we often discuss the
positive so that no one views us as only discussing the negative. However, reinforcing students’
strengths does not have to settle on the role of buffer. Instead, once school psychologists have a
more comprehensive understanding of positive psychology, they will incorporate this mentality
into their consultation with parents and teachers. This in turn will increase parents and teachers’
abilities to reinforce the positive in students, and come up with not interventions, but activities that
will enhance and nurture students’ lives.
A beginning step in the potential use of positive psychology is to show how these concepts
can be used to prevent future problems from occurring. For example, one may argue that current
school-based consultation practices are analogous to those in clinical psychology in that they
follow the disease model (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Teachers and parents often solicit
consultation services only as problems with students arise. Unfortunately, this process again only
reinforces the remediation philosophy of service delivery. Sadly, far less attention is placed on
reinforcing positive behavior or fostering the positive qualities of both problem and non-problem
children simply for the sake of promoting maximum well-being. Rarely are students referred to a
school psychologist because they potentially could have a problem.
Nonetheless, prevention represents a step in the right direction as one is concerned with
discovering the fullest potentialities of the individual. The beauty of prevention is that to a certain
extent its practice already exists within the schools. More specifically, because of increasing gov-
ernment mandates stemming from heightened parent advocacy and awareness from extensive
media coverage of issues affecting today’s youth (e.g., school violence, academic accountability)
school psychology has begun to place greater emphasis on prevention programs, which has led to
a shift in thinking from remediation to prevention. What better way to demonstrate the practicality
of positive psychology then by incorporating its ideas into prevention efforts that may decrease
the number of referrals generated. Fostering a system wide program toward reinforcing positive
aspects of child development may help in the long-term reduction in referrals for academic and
behavioral difficulties.
We understand that a change from a corrective to a preventive stance does not simply occur
overnight. However, if practitioners are shown the potential benefits and practical utility of posi-
tive psychology through the means described above then this should lead to the third and final step
in the process of rediscovering and introducing positive psychology within the school setting. This
step refers to the actual accomplishment of some goals of positive psychology, which include
identifying, examining, and fostering the already existing “strengths and virtues” (Sheldon &
King, 2001) of human beings. Consultation with parents and teachers represents an optimal oppor-
tunity within the school to achieve these goals. Although the process of consultation would remain
the same, the content would now be different. More specifically, instead of focusing on remedia-
tion as in the past, school psychologists could now devote efforts to consulting with teachers and
parents about students’ potentials and already existing strengths. This in turn will lead to the
increased potential of these students experiencing what has been called “positive emotions” (e.g.,
166 Terjesen, Jacofsky, Froh, and DiGiuseppe
joy, interest, pride, etc.) (Fredrickson, 2001). “By building people’s personal and social resources,
positive emotions transform people for the better, giving them better lives in the future” (Fredrick-
son, 2001, p. 224).
To achieve this goal, school psychologists must begin to fine-tune the most valuable asset
they possess when conducting school consultation: their knowledge. Specifically, school psychol-
ogists must now expand their already existing knowledge base to include current research exam-
ining advancements in positive psychology. Efforts should begin by incorporating into the knowledge
base a user-friendly definition of positive psychology, and information concerning the types of
constructs studied within the area (e.g., optimism, well being, virtues).
As previously stated, while the principles of positive psychology are somewhat already in
place during consultation, greater opportunity still exists for expansion of its involvement. And,
consultation represents a good starting point for incorporating a positive mentality into school.
Positive psychology’s developmental orientation represents a means of improving on some of the
possible existing pitfalls of consultation. The first amongst these is failure to produce results
across times and settings (e.g., traditional methods usually focus on immediate quick fix alter-
ations of the classroom environment, which produce short-lived results). Positive psychology will
redirect school psychologists’ focus from specific target negative behaviors to specific positive
strengths or attributes (Hughes, 2000). We are so concerned with correcting problem behavior that
we are forced to take time and resources away from children who are doing well. However, why
should these children be denied the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential? Regrettably,
sometimes the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many in the classroom. While still
working to develop the positive qualities in the students who demonstrate more problematic behav-
ior, the school psychologist might do the greatest amount of good through larger-scale consultation.
Positive Psychology and Direct Work
Did you ever scratch your head, while talking to a child, and ask yourself, “I do not get it.
How does he do it? Given all that has occurred to him, how can he maintain the approach that he
has taken?” School psychologists probably don’t do this often as they do not often interact with
students who are functioning well in adverse situations, instead spending more time with those
who are not functioning well. Interactions with students who function well under adverse circum-
stances may reveal that that do not ignore the positive. If positive things are not dismissed (“I
should be able to handle that problem well. No big deal”), then people may continue to operate
under the paradigm of looking for problems and remediating those rather than focusing on effec-
tive helpful cognitions and behaviors (Terjesen, 2000). Reinforcing their ability to focus on how
well they handled/approached specific aspects of the problem and looking at their own data can be
helpful: “In the past, you might have avoided the situation; this time you didn’t avoid it. Let us
look at what you told yourself to let you handle these problems and you did.”
The cognitive therapy model has focused on identifying faulty/harmful thinking patterns and
developing effective coping strategies and behaviors. While research has demonstrated effective-
ness of these models (Lewinsohn, & Clarke, 1999; Bennett, & Gibbons, 2000) long-term mainte-
nance of gains are not as strong as would be desired. This may occur because the individual (child,
parent, teacher) may revert to their familiar (yet self-defeating) pattern of thinking. As such, more
of a philosophical change needs to occur, fostering more optimistic and hopeful ways of thinking.
This is not just adopting a “glass half-full” perspective, but making a major philosophical change.
Seligman (2002b) describes how “learned optimism” training programs involve teaching the indi-
vidual to “recognize their own catastrophic thinking and to become skilled disputers” (p. 5) ( Peter-
son, 2000; Seligman et al., 1995, 1999).
Integrating Positive Psychology into Schools 167
Direct work with children. Research has shown that teaching optimism (Jaycox et al., 1994;
Seligman et al., 1995) can be effective in preventing at-risk children from developing depressive
symptomology. By using cognitive training and social problem solving, elementary school aged
children at risk for depression were taught optimistic ways to view events. Following the training,
a significant difference was noted with the treatment groups reporting less depression than the
control group with this effect increasing over a two-year follow-up. Roberts, Brown, Johnson, and
Reinke (2002) described work by Snyder and colleagues that demonstrated modest positive changes
in children who were taught cognitive beliefs in one’s own ability to produce workable paths to
goals. More controlled studies that compare a cognitive restructuring approach with one that
integrates core tenets of positive psychology would be helpful in determining if positive psychol-
ogy prevented problems, and led to more positive affect and achievements beyond the gains
experienced through traditional cognitive therapies.
An important consideration when counseling is to consider and evaluate the mindset that the
student brings to the therapy process. Specifically, what are their expectations and attitudes toward
counseling? It is interesting to consider some sources of belief formation for these students, with
many of them developing false ideas about what psychotherapy is by inaccurate portrayal in the
media or from their peers. Therapists would benefit from addressing this point at onset, asking the
student “what do they think happens in therapy?” Many students falsely believe that being in
therapy means they are crazy. Education about counseling and a discussion about what crazy
means can help in modifying these thoughts.
School psychologists should also recognize that problem students present with different atti-
tudes toward change, and understand that wanting to change is an area in which positive psychol-
ogy may be used. For example, Prochaska and DiClemente (1982) developed a model for examining
how people think about change. The first stage of change, the precontemplative stage, reflects that
the individual has no desire to change. Because many students are referred by others, their moti-
vation to change may be small. With many students attempting to establish independence, being
told what to do by another adult may further entrench them their resistance. The school psychol-
ogist would be better served to consider the stage of change of the student before presenting
positive approaches to change. Presenting interventions before the student recognizes a problem
and understands the core ideas of positive psychology may only further elicit resistance. The
second stage is the contemplative stage, where people are willing to explore whether change is
desirable. Self-evaluation is more difficult for younger students and may increase in accuracy as
students get older. Using the concepts of hope and optimism can be crucial here at getting a
commitment to change. In the action stage, the individual takes steps toward change. Regrettably,
not all action will be met with success. The continued belief in the core concepts of hope and
optimism will further buffer against nonsuccess. Finally, in the maintenance stage, students attempt
to consolidate the changes that they have made. This stage can be used for further evaluation of
goals for the future, building on previous successes.
Another important point for school psychologists to consider in direct work with students is
that most students do not come to therapy to receive help with a problem. They come because
someone else (parent, teacher) perceives them to be a problem. Asking a student “why they are
here?” may be a good question to assess the students’ own ability to identify problematic behav-
iors, but most students may know that you are already aware why they were referred. Perhaps, a
better question may be “I was already given some information about you, but I am curious why
you think you are here.” However, this type of question may further reinforce the notion that we
are there to “correct” the child. Thus, an even better question might be: “Tell me about some
things that you do well and some things that you would like to do more.” This may be foreign to
them because they are now given the option of setting goals and someone is asking/listening to
168 Terjesen, Jacofsky, Froh, and DiGiuseppe
them about their strengths as a person. If students have difficulty with this question, the school
psychologist may assist them by offering examples of their own strengths or those of other children.
A final note concerning attitudes and expectations involves those of the referral sources. Very
often parents and teachers have their own set of beliefs about what therapy is supposed to be like
and what their role/involvement in therapy should be. They may have concerns about their “dirty
laundry” being aired or fear that the therapist will side with the child and blame the parent or
teacher. In addition, some way wish to have no/minimal involvement in the therapeutic process
and just want “their child fixed.” Others may want to be educated about certain parenting/teaching
approaches, but may want to keep their direct involvement to a minimum. Still others may acknowl-
edge that they may play a role in maintaining and reinforcing behaviors, and may be willing to
modify their behaviors and/or beliefs. A “positive” school psychologist could utilize some of the
previously outlined points about positive psychology to work effectively with referral sources that
have different beliefs.
Direct Work with Parents and Staff. Occupational stress among school personnel (Guglielmi
& Tatrow, 1998; Maybery & Reupert, 1998; Yagil, 1998) is another area that school psychologists
may be involved with, and thus, may provide another opportunity to integrate positive psychology
into practice through use of stress reduction approaches. For example, looking at the explanatory
style of the child’s behavior by a teacher and how they might internalize some of these behaviors
can be a major factor in predicting stress. Additional perceptions of a lack of support by col-
leagues, administration, and parents may further contribute to the process and occupation of teach-
ing as less than enjoyable. Looking for what they had previously found enjoyable about the teaching
experience and fostering additional opportunities to experience these positive aspects along with
traditional stress reduction methods may help buffer teachers from stress.
The active role that parents play in children’s educational decisions can further be an area that
we can use positive psychology. Getting parents to view their child’s strengths and not focusing on
his or her weakness might allow for reinforcement of the child’s capabilities from multiple dimen-
sions of his/her life, which might lead to greater carry-over. Also, taking a family-centered approach
to provision of services may also assist in reinforcing and enhancing many good skills that the
parent has already rather than focusing solely on where they are lacking.
School psychologists can play an active role in parent training. Parent training typically
involves working with families of children who are “exhibiting problematic behaviors,” probably
more externalizing behaviors. School psychologists may operate under two approaches when
working with families: (1) that there is a skill deficit and that they do not know how to most
effectively handle the children’s behavior; or (2) that there is a skill performance problem in that
they know what to do but just have great difficulty in performing it. Positive psychology can be
used with both treatment approaches through looking at what the parent’s strengths are and reinforc-
ing those strengths. Strengths can involve both behavioral strengths and cognitive assets (e.g.,
hope and optimism for change).
Parents experience a range of emotions as well (Terjesen, 2000). Stanton, Parsa, and Auste-
nfeld (2002) proposed that a vital objective of psychotherapy is a stable expression of emotions.
They discuss emotionally focused therapy (EFT) “which seeks to help clients achieve more adap-
tive functioning through evoking and exploring emotions and restructuring maladaptive emotional
schemes” (p. 154). Stanton et al. described research on EFT with couples demonstrating the
efficacy of this approach in reducing martial distress. However, a review of the literature regarding
parent training lends to limited, inconclusive results. By discussing emotional experiences that
parents may have about their children’s behavior, one might work toward experiencing of more
healthy, positive emotions when they are with their children. The goal is not for parents to be
happy about their children’s misbehavior, but for parents to be more appropriately upset, which
Integrating Positive Psychology into Schools 169
would allow them to make effective parenting decisions. They could think about times that they
were experiencing positive emotions with their children and work on increasing the opportunity
for those experiences to occur.
School Refusal and Positive Psychology: An Illustrative Example. So exactly how might
positive psychology suggest a different approach to dealing with specific problems of childhood?
Again, it all comes back to how we understand the “problem,” placing a greater focus on why
other students may not develop “problems.” School refusal will be used to show how a concep-
tualization of the problem using positive psychology could lead to developing effective alterna-
tives approaches.
School refusal behavior (SRB) is defined as having difficulty attending school or remaining
in school for the entire day (Kearney & Silverman, 1990). Approximately 5% of students are
reported to engage in SRB (King & Bernstein, 2001). The onset of school refusal behavior can
occur over a time or as an immediate response to a stressful life event. However, no one refers the
child until the behavior has become problematic. Therefore, treating this boy or girl appropriately
and efficiently is imperative. Essentially, early assessment aids in treating school refusal behavior.
Here, considerations should be given to the child’s affective, cognitive, and behavioral function-
ing, both generally and in relation to the specific circumstances of the refusal (Elliot, 1999).
So while looking at the factors that contribute to school refusal behavior can greatly assist in
remediating the problems that these students experience, we might want to consider what factors
lead the approximately other 95% of students to attend school. They may experience many of the
same stressors as those that do not attend and the same external reinforcers may exist for these
students as well, yet they continue to attend school regularly. Identifying what factors influence
their behaviors can be used to help those who are not attending. What is it about school and
learning that allows these students to be optimistic and effectively manage and how can this be
used toward working with those that are not attending? How can we instill a similar pattern of
hope in all students may be a challenge to the school psychologists.
We could use positive psychology in two ways to address school refusal. First, the student
may present with a problematic behavior (school absenteeism) that can be addressed through
traditional interventions (e.g., home-school collaboration/communication, stress reduction, removal
of external reinforcers) while also teaching students some core concepts of positive psychology
(e.g., hope, optimism). Second, as the frequency of the problem decreases, positive psychology
can be used again to increase strengths and assist the student in working toward their maximum
Positive Psychology and Educational Assessment and Planning
The assessment of child and adolescent personality is a frequent activity of school psychol-
ogists as it helps us understand more clearly the problems that students may face. Knoff (2002)
describes how. . . .
personality assessment is a process, not a product. It is simply not enough to describe or even under-
stand a child’s behavioral or social-emotional problems. School psychologists must move from problem
analysis to interventions that resolve these problems and that facilitate children’s normal development
and positive mental health (p. 1300).
Assessment practices using this perspective provide an ideal place for positive psychology.
Through personality assessment, one might identify strengths of the student and use this data to
develop a program geared toward building on these strengths. For example, Snyder et al. (1997)
developed the Children’s Hope scale (CHS) which identifies children who exhibit hope at high
levels who can serve as models for other children and identifying children who might benefit from
170 Terjesen, Jacofsky, Froh, and DiGiuseppe
improvement in hopeful thinking. Additional measures that we could introduce into personality
assessments include the Children’sAttributional Style Questionnaire (CASQ; Seligman et al.,1995)
and the Life Orientation Test (Scheier & Carver, 1985).
In addition, developing Individual Education Plan (IEP) goals is another area that school
psychologists might use positive psychology. As research has shown, the more clear the goals, the
more likely participants are to meet them (Melton, 1978). This may hold implications for school
psychologists as they focus on developing IEP goals. By developing goals directed toward the
students strengths and increasing them, it will force the clinician to “think outside the box.” When
writing goals that directly assess remediation of areas of deficiency, school psychologists can
think of addressing and reinforcing the student’s strengths so that they may indirectly affect the
areas of deficiency.
In summary, instead of a traditional assessment question that asks, “Why might some stu-
dents experience greater difficulty than others?”, perhaps a better question is, “Why might some
students succeed in spite of their difficulties?”. That is, although a myriad of factors affect learn-
ing, one of those factors could be the coping strategies and cognitive approach that a student takes.
In our educational assessment and planning, perhaps we should be writing about a student’s strengths
along with goals that reinforce and enhance those strengths rather than solely remediate weaknesses.
The opportunity for individuals within the education field to actually achieve the goal that
every child to succeed to the fullest potential may exist within positive psychology. As a profes-
sion, we must promote an optimistic, yet realistic (Peterson, 2000) future for positive psychology
to be recognized and given an opportunity to thrive. Although school psychologists may be ini-
tially resistant to adopting positive psychology given current preoccupation with focusing on the
negative rather than positive, its tenets should not be easily dismissed. As evidence in support of
positive psychology grows, it may become more apparent that fostering positive qualities will be
more effective than remediation of problem behavior.
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172 Terjesen, Jacofsky, Froh, and DiGiuseppe
... The P2 program is grounded in positive psychology. Traditionally, school-based mental health has viewed students' struggles through a problem-based approach (Terjesen et al., 2004). However, positive psychology is about finding those unique features within human beings that work and to understand what happens when things go right, rather than wrong (Sheldon & King, 2001;Waters, 2011). ...
... Positive psychology asserts that without good character, students may not have the desire to engage in activities to learn new skills (Park & Peterson, 2009). When maximized, students' positive traits (e.g., optimism, hope, resilience, kindness, honesty) can help buffer against the risks inherent to their psychological or environmental challenges (Terjesen et al., 2004). The P2 program targets the 24 unique and malleable character strengths (e.g., perseverance, enthusiasm, optimism, self-control; Peterson & Seligman, 2004) established in positive psychology. ...
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Sense of relatedness is a key component of students’ social-emotional learning, as it captures the degree to which students’ feel they have quality relationships with others in school. The purpose of the current pilot case study is to measure students’ sense of relatedness and assess the degree to which a new character education social-emotional learning program based in positive psychology – The Positivity Project (P2) – is having a positive impact on students. Results from the two case studies including 108 elementary school students and 154 middle school students indicate positive associations between P2 implementation and increases in self-reported sense of relatedness.
... Character strengths are "pre-existing qualities that arise naturally, feel authentic, are intrinsically motivating to use and energizing" (Brdar & Kashdan, 2010). When maximized, students' positive traits (e.g., optimism, gratitude, perseverance, kindness, honesty) can help buffer against the risks inherent to their psychological or environmental challenges (Terjesen, Jacofsky, Froh, & DiGiusseppe, 2004). A common critique of positive psychology is that it pays little attention to the negative experiences of a person's life (Held, 2004;Lazarus, 2003). ...
Recently, a new program – The Positivity Project (P2; – has been developed to address key implementation challenges for teachers. P2 is a professional development program focused on teacher’s use of project-based learning and a universal student character education curriculum that provides educators and students with tools to support socio-emotional skills through daily, 15-minute learning modules across the school year. In this article, we (a) explain the theory informing P2, (b) detail key implementation components, (c) include real-life accounts from students and teachers using P2 across K-12 and alternative settings, and (d) provide suggestions for evaluating the impact of P2 for those schools considering implementation. The P2 program is informed by positive psychology, a strengths-based approach to instruction that is well-suited to support students with disabilities. Currently, there is promising evidence of P2 effectiveness that could be classified as practice-based evidence (see Schools wishing to explore use of P2 may wish to consider the best ways to measure the effectiveness of the program. One option is the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths for Youth, which was developed to assess the 24 character strengths from positive psychology and has been translated into multiple languages.
... In the past two decades, there have been advocates of positive education, which proposes that the goals of education should focus on the development of well-being and skills for happiness, in addition to the goal of developing the traditional academic skills [1][2][3]. Hope is one of the constructs that has been emphasized in positive education [4,5], but hope has been defined and studied in different ways in positive education. For example, hope has been studied as a positive prospective and activating emotion that activates students' attention, motivation, and self-regulatory processes related to learning [6,7]. ...
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The positive education movement has called attention to the importance of student well-being and the role of positive constructs, such as hope, in the educational process. The external locus-of-hope dimensions, or positive cognitions about the role of external actors in the pursuit of important goals, positively predict student well-being, learning approaches, and achievement. However, external locus-of-hope dimensions were found to be associated with maladaptive coping styles among Asian students. In this study, we revisit this relationship between external locus-of-hope dimensions and coping among students, by focusing on collectivist coping strategies that are assumed to be more relevant to Asian students. A total of 780 university students from three Asian cities (Hong Kong, n = 295; Macau, n = 225; Manila, n = 260) were asked to complete a questionnaire on collectivist coping styles, internal and external locus-of-hope dimensions. Separate multiple regression analyses indicated that the coping style of acceptance/reframing/striving was mainly predicted by internal locus-of-hope in the three groups, but the coping styles of family support and religious coping were consistently predicted by external locus-of-hope dimensions in all three groups of students. The two other coping styles of avoidance/detachment and personal emotional outlets were also predicted by specific external locus-of-hope dimensions, but only in particular groups. The results are discussed in terms of how external locus-of-hope dimensions might evoke both adaptive and maladaptive coping among Asian students, which may be associated with primary and secondary control dimensions of the collectivist coping styles.
... Less often, character traits are emphasized in strength-based interventions for individuals with ASD, although interest in this area is increasing (Groden et al., 2011;Honeybourne, 2019). Imagine the potential impact of beginning an IEP meeting with a thorough discussion in which both parents and educators share anecdotes about the positive character strengths of a student with ASD (Terjesen et al., 2004). Imagine the potential impact of a psychoeducational report that "cultivates the positive" (Roeser, 2001, p. 99) by describing a student's academic, social, and character strengths in equal measure to descriptions of his or her challenges/deficits. ...
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This study examined educators’ descriptions of the positive character traits of students with autism spectrum disorder at ages 7–8 and 10–11, using an adapted version of the Values in Action (VIA) Classification of Strengths. The most commonly endorsed strengths at both age intervals were kindness, specific skills, self-regulation, and perseverance. Higher scores for challenging behavior were associated with a lower likelihood of endorsement for Happiness and Courage traits. Higher autism symptom severity scores were associated with a lower likelihood of endorsement for Courage traits. Few significant differences were found for endorsement of trait categories by students’ educational placement or the type of curriculum they received. Results may have implications for student-teacher relationships, educational assessments, and school-based interventions that emphasize strengths and resilience.
... The present study results showed that gratitude interventions are effective in reducing stress and daily hassles among adolescents. These results are supported by previous studies (McCabe-Fitch, 2009;Miller et al., 2010;Sin & Lyubomirsky, 2009;Terjesen et al., 2004). These studies have shown that practicing positive psychology interventions helps in improving mental and physical wellbeing for young people. ...
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The present research measures the effectiveness of gratitude interventions in dealing with academic stress and daily hassles among Pakistani high school students. A total of 162 students randomly assigned in experimental (82) and control groups (80) took part in a four week interventions program. The gratitude interventions included Count Your Blessings, writing Gratitude Letters, and Loving Kindness Meditations which were modified & adapted into Urdu. The pretest and posttest assessment was done. The results of paired sample t-test showed significant decrease in academic expectation scores (t = 5.76**, M1 + SD1 = 31.44 + 6.56, M2 + SD2 = 27.30 + 6.75) with medium effect size (Cohen’s d = 0.65), and also for daily hassles decrease. Further results showed high level of stress about personal future, academic concerns and excessive social demands which were decreased after interventions. This study supports the use of gratitude interventions in school setting especially in developing country like Pakistan where structured counseling services are limited.
... The positive correlates of locus-of-hope dimensions in students' learning and well-being align with the positive education approach (Terjesen et al., 2004), which has been increasingly popular in educational systems across the globe. Part of the positive education approach involves school psychologists assessing students' character strengths and other positive traits that can be coping resources for the challenges they face in school, as well as resources for the students' flourishing and achievement in school. ...
Recent research has shown the utility of the locus-of-hope model to explain variations in student coping, well-being, and achievement in schools. Two studies were conducted to explore the validity of a short form of the Locus-of-Hope Scale (LOHS-SF), which was created to provide a more convenient tool for assessing students' locus-of-hope dimensions in schools. Both studies involved university students in the Greater Manila area in the Philippines who answered a questionnaire that included the LOHS-SF and other scales for criterion validity (i.e., scales on individualism-collectivism, life satisfaction, personal and relational self-esteem). The results EFA in Study 1 and CFA in Study 2 provide evidence for the structural validity of the four-factor model of LOHS-SF. Both studies also show adequate internal consistency of the four subscales of the LOHS-SF and criterion validity of its subscales; specifically, how the subscales are associated with cultural orientations, life satisfaction, and self-esteem. The results indicate the viability of the LOHS-SF for use in university students as a psychological tool for measuring aspects of students' well-being.
... If people are happy in the organizations they work, they may achieve the goals of the organization by using their capacities at a high level. It is important for the person to fully use their capacity and to have support of their positive behaviors (Terjesen et al., 2004). However, it may be said that some jobs in organizations do not contribute to the happiness of individuals. ...
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In this study, the relationship between psychological counselors' psychological resilience and organizational happiness was examined. This research was carried out within the scope of the relational screening model. As a data collection tool in the research; Well-Being at Work Scale, Brief Resilience Scale and Personal Information Form were used. The research was conducted with 310 psychological counselors. The organizational happiness of the psychological counselors did not show a significant difference according to the variables of gender, type of organization, level of organization the situation of the psychological counselors being assigned to another organization other than the organization where they work did not and term of office. However, it showed a significant difference according to being assigned in jobs other than psychological counseling. In addition, it was determined that there is a positive, moderate, and significant relationship between the psychological resilience of psychological counselors and organizational happiness levels and psychological resilience predicts 20% of organizational happiness. In future research, psychological counselors' organizational happiness and psychological resilience may be examined by considering different variables such as personality traits, professional self-efficacy perceptions, professional sense of self, the number of students per counselor, the number of psychological counselors working in the organization and the facilities of the organization.
... School satisfaction is an overall cognitive assessment of students' schooling experiences based on their subjective criteria, including but not limited to their feelings towards the school community and the interpersonal relationships experienced in this context and thoughts about the importance of the school (Huebner & McCullough, 2000). School satisfaction is one important indicator of school well-being, a concept that has been promoted over the past two decades within the positive psychology literature (Huebner, Gilman, & Furlong, 2009;Seligman et al., 2009;Terjesen et al., 2004). The focus on positive indicators of mental health (e.g., school well-being) has important implications for school-based mental health services, as it guides more efforts towards prevention and early intervention (Stewart & Suldo, 2011). ...
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Background: Teacher-student relationships have been linked to various aspects of students' school functioning, including social-emotional well-being in school, but the underlying mechanisms need more investigation. Aims: In this study, we analysed longitudinal data to test if students' classroom behavioural engagement was a potential mechanism of change that explained how teacher-student relationships affect student school satisfaction. Sample: We used an archival dataset with a sample of seventh graders (ages 11-14, Mage = 12.7 year) in a middle school in the Southeastern United States. Methods: Adolescents completed self-report surveys across three waves over the course of 18 months. Results: Longitudinal structural equation modelling analyses revealed that teacher-student relationships were positively associated with positive classroom engagement behaviours and school satisfaction, respectively, at each time, and positive classroom behaviours at Time 2 fully mediated the longitudinal association between teacher-student relationships (Time 1) and school satisfaction (Time 3). Conclusions: Taken together, results suggested that fostering positive teacher-student relationships to increase students' positive classroom behaviours could be an effective pathway to promote students' satisfaction with school. The applications of the results in educators' and psychologists' work, such as consultation and trainings with teachers, are discussed.
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Yeni iş imkanları yaratarak ekonomik kazanca ulaşmak tarihin her sürecinde önemli olmakla beraber son yıllarda yaşanan ekonomik krizler ve işsizliğin artmasıyla girişimcilik daha da önem kazanmıştır. Endüstri ürünleri tasarımcıları da ürünü tasarlayan ve ona katma değer katan kişiler olarak zaman zaman girişimci bir kimliğe bürünebilmektedir. İstanbul Teknik Üniversitesi, Endüstri Ürünleri Tasarımı Lisans programı mezunları ölçeğinde kendi işini kurmuş veya girişimcilik olarak tanımlanabilecek bir faaliyet gerçekleştirmiş tasarımcıların bu süreçte yaşadıkları deneyimler ve aldıkları eğitimin kendilerine kazandırdığı avantajlar üzerine bir yüksek lisans çalışması yürütülmüştür. Çalışmada tasarımcının eğitim sürecinde hangi derslerin veya çalışmaların onları girişimcilik konusunda yönlendirdiği tespit edilmiştir. Girişimcilik ve endüstri ürünleri tasarımı eğitimi konuları bağlamında bir literatür çalışmasının yanı sıra, İstanbul Teknik Üniversitesi, Endüstri Ürünleri Tasarımı Bölümü’nden 1997-2010 tarihleri arasında mezun olmuş kişilerden kendi işini kuran 36’sı arasından 8’i ile yüz yüze görüşme yapılmıştır. Ayrıca yapılan görüşmeler sonrası elde edilen bulgular arasında girişimciliğe katkı sağladığı tespit edilen Değerlendirme ve Yapılabilirlik dersinin yürütücüsü ile de bir görüşme yapılmıştır. Endüstri ürünleri tasarımcısının girişimcilik konusundaki eğitiminden kaynaklanan avantajları iş fikri bulma, yaratıcı düşünme ve sonucunda ürün bazında yenilik oluşturma ve ürünle ilgili süreçlere hakim olma şeklinde sınıflandırılırken, çalışma kapsamında endüstri ürünleri tasarımı eğitiminin girişimcilik yönünü geliştirmek isteyen öğrencilere nasıl daha faydalı olabileceği de tartışılmıştır. Bu bildiride söz konusu çalışmanın bulguları bağlamında, endüstriyel tasarım eğitiminin girişimciliği nasıl destekleyebileceği tartışılacaktır.
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Resilience in human development is defined in relation to positive adaptation in the context of significant adversity, emphasizing a developmental systems approach. A brief history and glossary on the central concepts of resilience research in developmental science are provided, and the fundamental models and strategies guiding the research are described. Major findings of the first four decades of research are summarized in terms of protective and promotive factors consistently associated with resilience in diverse situations and populations of young people. These factors-such as self-regulation skills, good parenting, community resources, and effective schools- suggest that resilience arises from ordinary protective processes, common but powerful, that protect human development under diverse conditions. The greatest threats posed to children may be adversities that damage or undermine these basic human protective systems. Implications of these findings for theory and practice are discussed, highlighting three strategies of fostering resilience, focused on reducing risk, building strengths or assets, and mobilizing adaptive systems that protect and restore positive human development. The concluding section outlines future directions of resilience research and its applications, including rapidly growing efforts to integrate research and prevention efforts across disciplines, from genetics to ecology, and across level of analysis, from molecules to media.
Evidence concerning school psychology practitioners, graduate students, program graduates, degree levels, roles, and supply-demand relationships was reviewed. Historical trends and current directions were identified with tentative projections to the future School psychology in 2000 can be characterized as practiced primarily by specialist-level professionals, most of whom are female, and devoted largely to traditional roles with alternative roles emerging and gaining prominence. Strong demand exists for school psychologists in the public schools and legal requirements exert enormous influences on demand and priorities for services. Tentative projections of future trends are provided.
In this article, the author describes a new theoretical perspective on positive emotions and situates this new perspective within the emerging field of positive psychology. The broaden-and-build theory posits that experiences of positive emotions broaden people's momentary thought-action repertoires, which in turn serves to build their enduring personal resources, ranging from physical and intellectual resources to social and psychological resources. Preliminary empirical evidence supporting the broaden-and-build theory is reviewed, and open empirical questions that remain to be tested are identified. The theory and findings suggest that the capacity to experience positive emotions may be a fundamental human strength central to the study of human flourishing.
In this article, the author describes a new theoretical perspective on positive emotions and situates this new perspective within the emerging field of positive psychology. The broaden-and-build theory posits that experiences of positive emotions broaden people's momentary thought-action repertoires, which in turn serves to build their enduring personal resources, ranging from physical and intellectual resources to social and psychological resources. Preliminary empirical evidence supporting the broaden-and-build theory is reviewed, and open empirical questions that remain to be tested are identified. The theory and findings suggest that the capacity to experience positive emotions may be a fundamental human strength central to the study of human flourishing.