Strengths in Education
About Strengths

​​​Character strengths are rooted in the philosophy that everyone is capable of developing strengths and capabilities that promote positive developmental pathways. By fostering these strengths, each person has the capability to reach the highest potential. The first step to positive change is recognizing your own strengths. On this page we will try to help answer some questions you may have about the strength-based approach and it's application to education.


​What are Character Strengths? 

Positive psychology strays from traditional approaches as it focuses on psychological health, rather than the commonly explored psychological illness. Character strengths are at the very core of positive psychology. Rather than only looking at what can go wrong, it focuses on what can go right. A key assumption of this approach is that everyone has strengths, and identifying individual strengths and fostering them can promote well-being and life satisfaction (Seligman 2002). Helping individuals harness their signature strengths at work or school, in love, and at play can help pave the way to a more fulfilling life (Park 2004). Therefore the emphasis of character strengths is not only to mitigate psychological illness, but also to promote thriving and resiliency in all aspects of life. 

Researchers have developed the VIA Survey and Classification, a scientifically valid and cross-culturally relevant framework for everyone to identify and call forth what is best in ourselves and others. They have identified 24 key character strengths within 6 broad virtues, that exist within every individual at varying degrees. The virtues consist of wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence. Each of the 24 strengths have their own correlates with positive outcomes.  For example, the character strength of self-regulation has a positive correlation with achievement and secure interpersonal attachment, and negative correlation with anxiety and depression (Peterson & Seligman, 2004).This demonstrates how character strengths are important for positive youth development as a buffer against mental illness, and for positive outcomes such as academic success. The research suggests that the strengths most correlated with life satisfaction, across ages and cultures are: zest, hope, love, wisdom, social intelligence, self-regulation, and perseverance (Park 2004).

Some Key Concepts About Character Strengths 

  •  Character is plural- each individual has a unique constellation of character strengths, making a profile of strengths
  •  Character strengths appear on a dimension; some people are high or low on various strengths
  •  Character strengths are expressed on a degree; some people are more likely to express their character strengths to a greater degree than others 
  • Character strengths are influenced by context and situation 
  •  Character strengths are both interactive and independent; a combination of character strengths may be expressed together 
  •  Character strengths are stable

Want to find your strengths? Click the photo below to take the VIA survey.  

Find your strengths:

"Building on children’s strengths isn’t simply a matter of telling them they are smart or strong or taking a sugar-coated approach to difficulties; it’s about having different kinds of conversations with them," says Lumley.

- Margaret Lumley, Psychology Professor. Click here to read the article.

Duckworth, A. L., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2006). Self-discipline outdoes IQ in predicting academic performance of adolescents. Psychological Science, 16, 939–944

Lopez, S. J., Louis, M. C. (2009). The Principles of Strengths-Based Education. Journal of College and Character. 10(4), 1-8. doi: 10.2202/1940-1639.1041

Peterson, C., & Park, N. (2009). Classifying and measuring strengths of character. Oxford handbook of positive psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character Strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford Press and Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Seligman, M. E. P. 2002. Authentic happiness. New York: Free Press.​