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To what extent is positive education in classroom settings successful in enhancing students happiness?

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Introduction

To what extent is positive education in classroom settings successful in enhancing students’ happiness? Session: May 2013 Name: Kasper Djernæs Candidate number: 000040-072 Psychology Extended essay Jane Graham Word Count: 3998 Content page Introduction…………………………………………………………… page 4 Defining and understanding happiness…………………………....page 4-5 The Penn Resilience program (PRP)…………………………………………..page 6-7 The Geelong Grammar School Project (GGS)……………………………..page 7-8 Positive education put into practice…………………………………………..page 8-9 Summary of evaluation point’s……………………………………………………page 9 Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………………..page 9-10 Bibliography……………………………………………………………………….page 11-13 Appendices………………………………………………………………………….page 14-15 Introduction Abraham Maslow ended his book Motivation and personality with the chapter Towards a Positive Psychology in which he argues that psychology to a higher extent should be focusing on the sides of life, which makes it worth living. Approximately 50 years later psychology had moved in this direction, but positive psychology first really came alive when Martin Seligman, at that time new elected president of the American Psychological Association, together with his colleague Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in 1998 decided to pick up the ball. “The aim of positive psychology is to begin to catalyse a change in the focus of psychology from preoccupation only with repairing the worst things in life to also building positive qualities” (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). After positive psychology was shaped it got broken down to several branches, such as neuroscience, health and psychotherapy. This investigation will be focusing on positive education, which is defined as education for both traditional skills and happiness. The reason why this topic is important to investigate is, that the prevalence of depression among teenagers is much higher than ever before, by the end of school nearly 20% of the youth experience clinical depression (Lewinsohn et al., 1993) Studies also suggests that the age at which people get depressed is decreasing (Weissman, 1987; Lewinsohn et al., 1993). Further more, young people in developed countries are experiencing only a small rise in life satisfaction compared to the economic growth, better health care and easier access to education. ...read more.

Middle

This study suggests that the PRP might not be successful in all cultures and minority groups. Conversely Yu and Seligman (2002) demonstrated that PRP is effective outside the borders of the US. They found that PRP managed to decrease depression symptoms in classroom interventions in a sample of adolescent in China. Another study carried out in Germany by (Pössel, Horn, Groen, & Hautzinger, 2004) also supports the idea that PRP works outside the US. A 10-week program had a preventive effect on students. Participants had few or subsyndromal levels of depression symptoms compared to the control group. (Brunwasser & Gillham, 2008) Also found in their Meta-analysis that there was no variation in PRP’s effect across different cultures and races. This cross-cultural study suggested that the theory of positive psychology is an etic, as this behavior seems to apply to most cultures around the world. In 2009 Martin Seligman’s research team carried out a randomized controlled evaluation of the school curriculum. A sample of 347 grade 9 students was divided into two groups one, which followed the positive psychology curriculum and a group that didn’t (control group). Before the school started both students and parents completed a survey, which focused on the students character strengths such as self-discipline, social skills and curiosity. Surveys were also completed at the end of school year and through a two-year follow up period. Based on both mother’s and teacher’s reports they found that the curriculum seemed to improve social skills, such as self-control and cooperation in students following the course. The Penn Resilience Program seems to suggest that positive psychology is able to enhance student’s happiness in classroom settings. The Geelong Grammar School Project (GGS) An investigation in how positive education effects students’ happiness. In 2008 The Geelong Grammar school, located in Australia, asked Seligman if he was willing to implements his theories regarding education to the whole school. ...read more.

Conclusion

Positive education has been, to a great extent, found to be successful in enhancing students? happiness. In both the Penn Resiliency Program (PRP) and The Geelong Grammar School Project (GGS) positive education did result in an overall increase in well-being and happiness, both with a short and long term perspective. Depression symptoms have been found to decrease significantly, as a result of the positive education. Further more in many of the studies both parents and students assess themselves, as more happy after the positive intervention than before. Through the evaluation of several international experiments, positive education was also found to be successful on a global scale and not only in America. This means that the findings can be generalized to more than just the students following the two programs. Resolved questions A new enhanced understanding of happiness has been given and research which lead to the theory of positive education have been presented. The extent to which positive education is successful have been established and research for and against it have been introduced, evaluated and validated. Two educational programs have been investigated, along with two exercises used in positive education. Unresolved question The findings of this essay suggest that further research into the field of positive education can be done. In some of the studies used to evaluated the success of positive education the participants only showed a slightly increase in happiness. This indicates that this approach could still be optimized and made better. Ways of merging positive education with other educational theories could be investigated to create a more holistic and effective way of increasing students? happiness. Another unresolved question such as, how the use of character strengths actually enhance wellbeing could be investigated, as by now only correlational studies have been conducted. New questions How positive education could be used in other fields of psychology would also be worth looking at. It might also be successful in increasing employees? happiness within a company and influence political decisions regarding education. In conclusion positive education is a promising field, which could be used in a variety of other areas of psychology. ...read more.

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