Denise Quinlan, MAPP '08, is a trainer with the Penn Resiliency Program and Strath Haven Positive Psychology Curriculum and is currently a PhD student focusing on strengths and subjective well being. She has over twenty years experience in management consulting. Helping people discover strengths and what makes life worth living is what Denise enjoys most, that and the joy of a good theory. Full bio. Denise's articles are here.
Most experienced teachers have struggled to like a student at some point.
Often it’s the badly behaved student who won’t play ball. Despite a teacher’s best intentions, he or she finds it hard to like or see the good in the child.Not a big deal? Wrong. Student-teacher relationships are among the most important predictors of engagement and achievement at school with an effect size of .72 (Cohen’s d). In layperson’s terms, the relationship to the teacher (and relatedness to others in the classroom) has a HUGE influence on the student’s learning and achievement. There’s more about this in the paper by Skinner and Furrer as well as in the book by Hattie.
Teachers get little training or support with building supportive relationships with students. Adopting a strengths focus can help a teacher expand his or her view of what’s right with a student. I often describe the VIA character strengths to teachers as 24 ways to like a difficult child. Identifying the strengths of their least favorite student lets most teachers experience the VIA’s potential as a relationship bridge builder in the classroom.When a teacher notices a strength in a student and comments on that strength, some very important things are happening in the classroom. First, the teacher is actively on the look out for what’s right with a student rather than just focusing on what’s wrong. Second, when the teacher spots a strength, they are literally seeing the good in a student and that alone can help increase regard and appreciation for the student. However, the most powerful part might be the teacher’s comment on the strength.
We know from Shelley Gable’s work that how we respond to good news can strengthen our relationships. A teacher’s comment on a student’s strength use is an active constructive response to the student’s behavior, and so is likely to increase relationship satisfaction for both parties. Building better student-teacher relationships translates into greater engagement and learning, the core business of schools.So far however, although strengths are often used in schools, we have focused on developing individual’s strengths to create individual benefits – making students better, faster, stronger. The social effects of strengths have been ignored. We haven’t looked at what happens to relationships when strengths are noticed in the classroom. There may be important benefits for students and teachers by adopting a strengths focus and noticing what’s good and what’s right with each other.
Furrer, C., & Skinner, E. (2003). Sense of relatedness as a factor in children’s academic engagement and performance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95(1), 148-162.
Gable, S., Gonzaga, G., & Strachman, A. (2006). Will you be there for me when things go right? Supportive responses to positive event disclosures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91(5), 904.
Gable, S., Reis, H., Impett, E., & Asher, E. (2004). What do you do when things go right? The intrapersonal and interpersonal benefits of sharing positive events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87(2), 228-245.
Hattie, J. (2009). Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge.
India courtesy of Anthony Kelly
Teacher Appreciation week: The Art and Craft of teaching courtesy of the Gates Foundation
Another view of India courtesy of Anthony Kelly