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Denise Quinlan’s Bio

written by Denise Quinlan 1 January 2007

Denise Quinlan

Denise Quinlan is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Masters in Applied Positive Psychology. She is a trainer with the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Resiliency Program and Strath Haven Positive Psychology Curriculum and is currently a PhD student focusing on strengths and subjective well-being.

Denise is an experienced facilitator and programme designer with over twenty years experience in management consulting. She has worked with management in the health, banking, engineering, power and state sectors in New Zealand and Europe. Helping people discover their strengths and what makes life worth living for them, is what Denise enjoys most – that and the joy of a good theory.

Denise’s articles are here and here (with Amanda Horne).

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Mimi Miller-Young 27 September 2011 - 6:01 pm

Dear Denise – I enjoyed your article about the work of Jennifer Fox-eades. My elementary school in Phoenix, AZ is beginning the process of identifying the stregths of our students and celebrating them. My struggle is that with my little Kindergarteners I don’t know where to turn. I want to come up with some activities that they can participate in to help develop their understanding of the strengths. I can pinpoint most of the kids and where I think they fall but I want something that they can do to gain understanding and also show me where their tru stregths lie…. Any ideas or direction would be greatly appreciated!

Denise Q 2 October 2011 - 6:18 pm

Creating a shared language is a very important part of strengths work. Let your first step be creating familiarity with the idea of strengths and the fact that they all display these strengths at times. Start with putting the words up around the classroom and you using them in the comments you make about their behaviour.

At this age there are still strengths that children haven’t developed. I would go easy on the kids and work hard with your colleagues to clarify your own attitudes towards strengths.
Discuss e.g. which strengths map most closely to your school’s values? Which strengths do you and your school believe you should most vitally encourage in children and why? To what extent do you believe you should encourage individual strengths versus those strengths you and the school value?

I think clarifying these issues and even having these discussions can really help a school to operate from a shared standpoint.

Noticing strengths in the children and pointing it out to all of them is a very powerful strategy which we believe works at a number of different levels – not least to build the relationships between you and the child. That relationship is a hugely important predictor of children’s learning and achievement so don’t underestimate the use of strengths in the classroom for that purpose.
simple activities like
– noticing strengths in children’s behaviour
– painting stones with the strengths names and using those as props when you discuss a strength. For young children making things concrete is important.
– having a time of day when you notice strengths in each other [end of day works well]
– children telling stories about a time they really enjoyed, then discussing what strengths people in the story showed.
-pointing out the strengths your students have shown in coping with challenges.
– spotting strengths in characters in stories.
– if they are able, brainstorm discussions about what a particular strength word means to them, noticing differences and commonalities in the classroom.

I think the value in using strengths is that it assumes that there is good to be found in all of us, and it primes us to look for that. I think this is much more important than getting picky about which strengths we use. Feel free to name strengths that your class believes are important to them. I believe that what’s important is you and your students believing you have strengths and noticing when they are used.
I hope that helps and wish you the best with your work.


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