Positive Psychology for Teachers

Positive Psychology for Teachers

Positive Psychology for Teachers

Positive Psychology for Teachers


Practical, actionable information about the positive, behavioural approach to education is in desperately short supply, and yet when implemented properly the impact on school behaviour and achievement can be enormous. Positive Psychology for Teachers aims to address this gap. Written by experienced practitioners, it gives teachers simple and direct advice on how they can use the positive behavioural approach for the benefit of their pupils and schools. Based on the authors' own experiences of intervention in school settings and evidence of its effectiveness, this practical guide includes a number of vignettes and case studies illustrating how the behavioural approach has been used by teachers in a wide variety of classrooms to make their teaching more effective. Each case study will be followed by a number of suggested practical activities for classroom implementation. Throughout the book background theory is explained in a concise and easily digestible manner and activities are clearly explained with benefits and end goals clearly signposted.Areas covered include: - Whole school interventions, turning around under-performance Reducing disruptive behaviour in the classroom Improving creative writing and increasing reading attainment Improving pupils' self concepts SEN interventions including autism, children with challenging behaviour and those classified as having social, emotional and behavioural difficulties The difference between teachers' treatment of boys and girls Strategies for turning around the behaviour of very difficult pupils This practical user-friendly text is aimed directly at trainee and practicing teachers but would also be very relevant to those working with trainee teachers in university departments and to educational psychologists


The term ‘positive psychology’ is comparatively recent. It derives from an address made by Martin Seligman to the American Psychological Society in 1998 in which he made the point that, during much of the last half century, psychology has been concerned with mental illness and with alleviating disorders to such an extent that it has turned attention away from any consideration of what makes life worth living. While accepting that psychology has been successful in helping individuals with disorders, he maintained that psychologists should also be thinking positively, not exclusively negatively. Positive psychology, in Seligman’s view, should be concerned with ‘happiness’ and ‘well-being’.

Seligman’s address was particularly aimed at clinical psychologists and those working in psychiatry whose job often entails giving an explanation for some unusual types of behaviour and helping to devise a treatment plan for individuals who have mental health problems. His criticism, however, is equally relevant to educational psychologists who work in schools. Educational psychologists are usually asked to see those pupils who have problems with their learning or their behaviour or else they may be consulted for advice on how to help schools improve some aspect of their overall functioning such as how to increase their attendance figures or reduce their number of exclusions. Never, in our experience, has an educational psychologist been asked to look at pupils who are coping well and see how they could gain more from their time in school. As a consequence, educational psychologists have tended to become problem solvers when things go wrong or are in need of improvement.

In education, the notion of positive psychology has gained some credence. In 2005 the British government introduced SEAL (Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning) to all primary and secondary schools in England and Wales, an initiative aimed at enhancing pupils’ ‘emotional well-being’. The ideas behind the programme came from writers such as Goleman (2005), who developed the concept of ‘emotional intelligence’. Goleman argued that emotional intelligence, which included the elements of empathy, happiness, social understanding and resilience, is just as important in determining successful outcomes for children as is their cognitive intelligence. The SEAL programme, which comprised weekly lessons aimed at enhancing emotional intelligence, was received enthusiastically by many teachers. Evaluation of the programme has, however, proved to be difficult, as has any evaluation of effects the programme may have on other aspects of children’s learning.

While Seligman’s address gave a strong impetus to psychologists to concern themselves with the more positive side of individuals there were, of course, a number of . . .

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