Relay GSE has brought the positive psychology principles authentically into practice through raising awareness of character education and the application of positive education in the classroom.
In their recent MOOC, Teaching Character and Creative Positive Classrooms, co-founder of the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) and valued contributor to Relay GSE, Dave Levin presents a 5 week course offering a practical model for developing student potential and teaching character education in the classroom. Below are 6 practical concepts introduced in the five week Teaching Character and Creating Positive Classrooms course.
1) Character Strengths
Peterson & Seligman (2004) found that 24 universal character strengths in different combinations help people flourish. This cued the development of the VIA Character Strengths. During the course, Dave Levin focuses on only seven strengths (Grit, Optimism, Self-control, Curiosity, Social Intelligence, Gratitude, and Zest) because he believes they have the greatest positive outcomes in the classroom. A practical exercise is presented where the participants can compare the most important strengths, for them as educators versus those most important for their students. Thus focusing on developing the highest rated character strengths from both perspectives.
Levin, Duckworth, Dweck, Gable et al. (2014) presented the concept of Macro-Structures as proactively planned structures, systems, and routines that have been created—explicitly or implicitly—with the goal of developing character. Examples of Macro-Structures include extracurricular activities with a character focus, structured independent practice sessions for students, or dual-purpose lessons.
“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” James Baldwin
Educators should always remember that before teaching character they have to act as a role model of the desired behaviour. The character strengths comparison exercise mentioned above, helps educators engage in self-improvement before planning on improving the students’ character strengths. Two more approaches which help the modeling process are:
- The educator shares three good things that went well with him/her today.
- The educator uses varied teaching methods to encourage flexibility in the students.
Daniel Kahneman’s research on decision making, has indicated that our memories are based on tiny moments (generally a few seconds long) that are divided into three categories good, bad, and neutral. The result showed that we remember the good and the bad moments and are less likely to remember the neutral ones. In the past educators have always been expected to feel, think, and act ‘good’ in the classroom in order to create the positive memories for students. Dave presents the model of micro-moments in the shape of a triangle, in which there are three ways to increase the likelihood of a positive micro-moment:
- Respond actively and constructively: Be intentional with your words, body language, and tone of voice while engaging with students. You can even try dropping the word BUT and using more YET when giving feedback.
- Keep a growth mindset: Focus on student effort, reinforce effective and repeatable strategies, and encourage students to proactively seek help.
- Use character behavior language: It’s great to integrate the language of character strengths—grit, zest, self-control, optimism, social intelligence, gratitude, and curiosity— into daily conversation inside and outside of class.
5) Introducing the WOOP
WOOP is one tool of many resources offered by Character Lab that enables students to set meaningful goals. WOOP stands for: Identify a Wish Imagine the Outcome Picture the Obstacles Make a Plan to overcome them so you can get your wish This is a powerful tool to help students set goals based on their desires and how they will overcome obstacles to achieve them.
6) Character Growth Card
Character Growth Card (CGC) is another tool from the Character Lab resources that has an evaluative purpose. It helps educators enhance students’ understanding of their character through regular feedback and goal-setting. If you want to dig deeper into teaching character and creating a positive classroom, enroll now at Teaching Character and Creating Positive Classrooms.
Watch Dave Levin on Character in the Classroom:
About the Author
Mohammed Baddar is an Educational Psychologist and Trainer with a passion for positivity. He did his MA in Educational Psychology in 2013. Since then he has kept up to date with psychology, education, positive psychology and positive education. He has plans to do a PhD in Positive Psychology and lead a positive initiative in Jordan. He is working on positive psychology literature in Arabic.
Find out more about Mohammed and his work at @MohBaddar
Levin, D. (2014, January 7). Building A Positive Institution. Message posted to http://blog.kipp.org/developingcharacter/building-a-positive-institution/ Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press and Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Seligman, M. E. P., Ernst, R. M., Gillham, J., Reivich, K., & Linkins, M. (2009). Positive education: Positive psychology and classroom interventions. Oxford Review of Education, 35, 293–311.