Newspaper article The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Australia)

Be Concerned by Kids' Strengths, Not Deficits

Newspaper article The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Australia)

Be Concerned by Kids' Strengths, Not Deficits

Article excerpt


PROFESSOR Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, and author of best-selling books Flourish, Authentic Happiness and The Optimistic Child, is going to be in Sydney next month for the Happiness and Its Causes conference.

The promo for his opening keynote got me thinking.

He is going to share how he came to study "optimism and resilience" at a time when psychology was fixated on "misery and trauma".

It got me thinking about viewpoints.

For more than 60 years, psychology worked from a "disease and disorder" model.

It focused on what was "wrong" and in doing this it lost sight of the person.

Has what happened to psychology happened to education? It sure feels like education is operating with a deficit lens. What if we learned from Seligman's work and worked harder at understanding what makes our kids engaged, happy, joyful?

What if we were as concerned with children and young people's "strengths and interests" as we are with their "weaknesses" or "knowledge deficits"?

Martin Seligman's work has made a science of what makes life worth living and he has identified the importance of social relationships and friendships, of experiencing "flow" and engaging in meaningful experiences with mindfulness.

I wonder what would happen if schools made decisions based on how they might enhance students' relationships with others.

I wonder what would happen if the pace of learning and teaching slowed right down, so that children had time to sit with ideas and experience positive emotions about their learning?

Or what would happen if learning was tailored to children's interests and curiosities so that they could love what they were learning and doing, and find learning genuinely meaningful?

For me, flipping the focus feels very important. …

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