Spotlighting Strengths: An Exploration of Character Strengths Interventions and the Impact for Young People with ADHD

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Louise Boeckmans
Submitted: September 2021


As part of this thesis, a review was conducted to investigate the impact of character strengths interventions (CSIs) on studentsā€™ well-being and academic outcomes. Whilst a large body of research exists with adults, few studies have focused on school-based CSIs. Through a systematic search, 13 articles were identified. Overall, positive findings emerged for classroom engagement and several measures of well-being, with the exception of negative affect. School-based CSIs appear to be most effective when conducted by teachers over time. Whilst research with specific populations is lacking, there is some evidence that the intervention can improve the well-being of at-risk students. There is mixed evidence as to whether the method of strengths identification is influential. A need for further research is considered important, particularly regarding the use of CSIs with primary-aged pupils and its use in a one-to-one format. Furthermore, it is not yet known whether the specific strengths focused upon impacts the effectiveness of this intervention.

Empirical research was also conducted for this thesis in which the concept of strengths- based practice is applied to ADHD. Research suggests that school staff are more likely to make within-child attributions of behaviour and have lower expectations for children with this diagnosis. The current research aimed to replicate this finding and investigate how perceptions alter when the characteristics of ADHD are presented as strengths, not deficits. In an online survey, 271 members of school staff read a vignette describing a child, with or without an ADHD label present, and whose behaviours were either positively or negatively framed. Staffā€™s attributions for the childā€™s behaviour and their predictions of the childā€™s future life satisfaction were collected. It was found that, when the characteristics of ADHD were negatively framed, staff expressed greater certainty in making both internal and external attributions and believed that the student would have lower life satisfaction as an adult. The label itself had no significant effect. These findings suggest that the framing of ADHD characteristics, rather than the label, impacts school staffā€™s beliefs.

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Creating a Culture of Kindness: How Might Schools Promote Childrenā€™s Prosocial Acts?

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Sophie Smith
Submitted: March 2019

Childrenā€™s pro-social behaviour is related to their peer status. Peer acceptance is associated with wellbeing and achievement in school, yet evidence suggests that many children are not aware of this and may attribute peer status to more dominant or materialistic orientations. Therefore, it is important that schools not only promote childrenā€™s pro-sociality, but draw their attention to its value. Given that social and emotional learning (SEL) programs appear to facilitate more positive pupil outcomes than anti-bullying initiatives, positive psychology approaches which focus on building social and emotional skills can be considered useful. Encouraging children to perform kind acts for one another has recently gained research attention as a positive psychology intervention particularly beneficial for social relationships. Self-determination theory (SDT) suggests that enacting kindness may temper individualsā€™ psychological needs for competence, autonomy and relatedness. Currently however, there is little evidence-based guidance for schools on how to go about promoting childrenā€™s kindness. In this essay, relevant research is synthesised with the aim of bridging this gap. It is argued that adults can support childrenā€™s intrinsic motivation to enact kindness, in two key ways. One is by providing information about what kindness is and how it can be used. The other is by fostering experiences of the emotional motivations of gratitude and empathy. Methods to achieve this are described with consideration to the role of self-determination needs. Ideas for future research and the contribution of the educational psychologist are proposed.

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Effects of a positive psychology intervention on the subjective wellbeing and efficacy beliefs of teaching staff

Assignment type:Ā Thesis
Author:Ā Francesca Nagle
Submitted:Ā June 2015


A variety of interventions have been developed based on the positive psychology principle of building positive emotion and subjective experience. Specifically, interventions designed to promote reflection on positive experiences have been cited as an effective way to increase oneā€™s subjective wellbeing. A systematic review of the existing literature was conducted to examine the efficacy of such interventions within non-clinical populations. Findings demonstrated a range of positive outcomes, including increases in positive affect, decreases in negative affect and improved life satisfaction. However, the review identified a number of methodological limitations within the current evidence base, including variation in intervention methods and aspects of implementation, which make it difficult to draw firm conclusions regarding the efficacy of such interventions in improving wellbeing. Consideration was also given to a number of factors which may moderate intervention efficacy, including participant motivation, continued effort and preference for specific interventions. Research has also begun to identify a range of individual difference factors which may influence the effectiveness of such interventions. Directions for future research include improvements to existing methodologies, as well as a need for systematic exploration of how features of both the individual and intervention may interact to influence wellbeing outcomes.

The empirical paper evaluated the effects of a positive psychology intervention on the subjective wellbeing and efficacy beliefs of teaching staff. Primary and secondary teaching staff (N= 49) were assigned at the school level to a daily ā€˜Three Good Thingsā€™ intervention (Seligman et al., 2005) or a neutral events diary control condition. Components of subjective wellbeing (positive and negative affect, satisfaction with teaching), self-reported efficacy in teaching and work-related burnout were assessed at pre and post-intervention. Contrary to previous findings, no significant differences were
observed between the two intervention conditions in relation to the identified outcome measures, and results were not in the expected direction. Changes in positive affect were associated with changes in efficacy beliefs. Findings extend the evidence base regarding the application of positive psychology interventions in educational contexts and outcomes in relation to self-efficacy. Future research directions and relevant implications for practice are considered.

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