The Strength-Based Classroom Experience
It's more than just good pedagogy...
strength-based teaching seems simply like good pedagogy, a
strength-based classroom is very intentional in its use of strengths. Classroom
teachers work to always explicitly consider strengths in all that they
do. For an excellent "first look" at how the strength-based classroom is
different, read the article to the right "Strength-Based Classroon
Strategies for Teachers" in Canadian Teacher.
Ideas to Get Started: Learn their strengths!
From the classroom:
beginning of each semester, students in my grade 9 geography class fill
out a "Getting Acquainted" inventory worksheet (to the right). Before I
handout the worksheet I start by talking about how the secret to their
success in this class goes beyond the book work and learning they will
do. Students must first realize that the secret to their success lies
within each of them understanding what they are good at. We have a
discussion about what strengths are and we brainstorm ideas about how
strengths might help them out with an area that they are not as strong
in. For example: If their strengths are being social and organized; we
list ways that these two strengths might help them with their school
work. Students do not always see the connection between their strengths
and using their strengths to achieve their goals. It is important to
take some time and list concrete ways of using their strengths to
achieve their goals.
The first part of the worksheet requires
them to ask another person the questions as a way to start to make a
bond and develop an appreciation for the person who will be sitting
beside them for the semester. Students then take the time to introduce
their desk partner to other students in the class.
The last part
of the work sheet focuses back on the student and asks them to write
out a couple of their strengths and areas that they might need help in. A
list of strengths is posted for the students to see; this helps them
understand that I am looking for more than "I am good at math". The
final step asks the students to share their strengths with their desk
partner and together list ways that will help them achieve their goals.
is important to refer to this worksheet often in the first couple of
weeks and then a few times each month as a way to reinforce and make the
connection between their strengths and using their strengths to achieve
their goals. I also make a copy of these sheets and keep them as a
reference. When an issue arises, I refer to the students strengths and
we start the conversation with their strengths and look for ways to use
their strengths to help them overcome the obstacle they are facing.
Getting Acquainted Worksheet:
WCDSB School Initiatives and Activities:
Tales from the field: "Lisa" Case Study
as a teacher you are forewarned about students before they even enter
your classroom. This is especially true if the student does not have the
cleanest track record at school. Coming from a strength-based approach,
we are lucky because along with these warnings, we are also handed
tools to engage, these tools being students strengths.
I have had the opportunity to work with many students using the
strength-based model and have seen many success stories. One student (we
will call her Lisa) came to me lacking a list of strengths in her file.
Lisa had been in and out of school over the last three years with
little attendance and low credit accumulation. She was a grade 12
student with 7 credits and a bad attitude towards school.
It was not easy at first because Lisa had huge gaps in her learning
and hated school. I was pulling my hair day after day trying to find
some way to reach this student. She was rude to teachers and students
alike and often inappropriate no matter what the circumstance.
At this time I was teaching art and had an elderly gentleman who was
an artist from the community teaching a lesson to my students once a
week. I soon noticed that this inappropriate behavior ceased to exist
when my volunteer was speaking to the students. Lisa would even correct
other the student’s behavior if they were acting inappropriately. It
was obvious that Lisa’s strength was her empathy for elderly people and
she shined in this situation.
Soon after this incident I noticed Lisa interacting with another
student’s baby. She was soft, kind and gentle, far from her normal
behavior in the classroom. I then realized that she was not just
empathetic towards the elderly, but children to. Her ability to connect
with vulnerable people showed an entirely different side of her and
helped us as a staff find the right fit for her education pathway.
Currently Lisa is completing a co-op at a pet store, caring for
animals and helping out around the store. Her ability to connect with
vulnerable people transferred over to her interactions with vulnerable
animals. When Lisa walked through my classroom door she was not able to
function in our school community. She is now working successfully using
one of her greatest strengths. Lisa is getting credits, life experience
and now positively shaping her future.
Goal Setting and Best Possible Selves Intervention Using Strengths
Disclosive Writing: What are the benefits?
in well being and achievement have been well documented in research
involving strengths and education. In particular, the activity of
writing using positive emotions helped students feel a greater sense of
well-being and positive emotions. Discolsive writing is beneficial in
the following ways:
· Release emotions that may be pent-up
· Opportunity to get a better understanding of emotional reactions
· Gain control over emotional outcomes
· Promoting self-awareness to allow students to gain insight on priorities
· Engage in self-regulation by focusing only on positive emotions and inhibiting negative emotions
· Explore different ways to cope with present/previous problems
· Research shows that inhibiting emotions can cause chronic autonomic arousal and has adverse effects on the immune function
Disclosive Writing: Using Strengths
GOAL SETTING + STRENGTHS
variation of disclosive writing requires students to write about how
they will incorporate their strengths in the future or how they will
develop their strengths/weaknesses. By setting goals, students are
asked to write about the future. Setting goals using positive emotion
has shown to be associated with well-being in the following ways:
· Writing helps bring awareness and clarity into goal
· Students can organize thoughts and prioritize goals
· Setting goals may help resolve conflicts
· Students can brainstorm various strategies to achieve their goals and grow as a person
goals can help students improve motivation, self-regulation and other
behaviors that are conducive to self-improvement and achieving the goal
· Clear goals have therapeutic effects on positive psychological functioning
BEST POSSIBLE SELVES + STRENGTHS
who actively visualize completing a task and envisioning the future may
be able to more effectively accomplish their goals. In particular,
encouraging students to visualize various ways they can use strengths in
the future will help promote a strengths based philosophy within the
Research from previous interventions
showed that participants who were required to imagine their best
possible selves (BPS) had more positive, optimistic, and less emotional
moods with effects lasting several months.
Best Possible Selves (BPS) are views of oneself that are not true at the present but might be true in the future
How does it work?
· Hypothetical possible selves have been shown to be an important player in identity development during adolescence
· Students are presented with an opportunity to generate ideas of who they want to become
· Envisioning future selves help generate ideas of how they will achieve this best possible self
· BPS can showcase opportunities for change and potential for growth
· Thoughts of hope and positivity are promoted during writing
· Positive self-evaluations can increase self-esteem
· Continuous development and fostering of these traits will lead to greater life satisfaction and self-esteem
· Owens and Patterson's (2013) research on BPS showed an increas-0An
intervention that can be implemented within the school asks students to
engage in disclosive writing that incorporates envisioning and setting
goals for possible ways to use strengths in the school, home, and
A sample of questions are presented below:
1) How will you use your top three strengths in a new way?
a. Helps students become aware of their strengths by showcasing different ideas to incorporate strength use into their daily lives
2) What can you do to continue developing your top strength or work on improving a weak strength?
a. Requires students to set a goal to improve their strengths
b. Help students generate various strategies to achieve these goals
will these strengths look like in a successful future? How will this
strength help you reach your goal of who you want to become?
a. Requires student to visualize the future and who they want to become
b. Focuses on thought of positivity and hope to promote well-being
c. Helps students prioritize and bring clarity into their goals
Why does goal setting work?
researchers in positive psychology and strengths, Christopher Peterson
and Martin Seligman noted that the identification of strengths is not
enough for the individual to benefit from strengths. The benefit of strengths are advantageous when an individual is capable of using and developing their strengths.
Knowing a strength and being asked to use them does not require an
individual to set a goal. Goal theory states that setting a clear plan
may make an individual more likely to follow through with their plan as
well as track progress.
This intervention can also be administered to younger students. Younger
students are encouraged to use drawings to communicate their BPS and
goals which function as a communication tool in a similar way to
King, L.A. (2000). The health benefits of writing about life goals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 798-807. doi: 10.1177/0146167201277003
R.L., Patterson, M.M. (2013). Positive psychological interventions for
children: a comparison of gratitude and best possible selves approaches.
The Journal of Genetic Psychology: Research and Theory on Human Development, 174(4), 403- 4
28. doi: 10.1080/00221325.2012.697496
D., Swain, N., Vella-Brodrick, D.A. (2012). Character strengths
interventions: building on what we know for improved outcomes. Journal of Happiness Studies, 13(6), 1145-163. doi: 10.1007/s10902-011-9311-5
Resources and Books to Help Builds Strengths
Falcon Feat Attribute Suggestions:
Books for students from kindergarten to Grade 8: