Why Positivity Matters in Your School
Vol. 15 No. 5
Academic leaders are tasked with creating school systems that support teachers and help students succeed. ISM’s research indicates that cultivating a positive atmosphere—one where faculty members provide a predictive and supportive environment—is essential to making student success a reality.
Students respond best when they feel their teachers, advisors, and administrators support their advancement. The practice of positive psychology validates this viewpoint. Positive psychology is "the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play."
Researchers have found that praise and positivity can greatly impact a school environment. Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child found that “children who do well ... have had at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive adult.” In another study, Demonstration of the Effects of an Increased Praise Ratio on Student On-Task Behavior, researchers found that teachers who praised students more often than reprimanded them saw increased on-task behaviors from their students.
Help your teachers, staff, and fellow administrators create a positive atmosphere in your school by forging relationships with students based on mutual trust and respect. Praise students’ strengths in addition to addressing problems or deficits as needed. This gives students the ability to express optimism, be receptive to guidance, and create change.
As an academic leader, keep these tips in mind to help create a positive atmosphere within your school. Seek to:
- listen more than you speak;
- question more than you direct your responses;
- understand more than you gain compliance;
- provide feedback more than you give advice;
- acknowledge and praise effort more than you emphasize ability;
- challenge more than you nag;
- celebrate small successes more than you point out shortcomings; and
- foster autonomy more than you allow sustained dependence.
Encourage administrators, faculty, and staff to be mindfully present, demonstrating optimism and exhibiting compassion for their students. Each adult should be a role model of calm reflection within their school. They should avoid exhibiting their own frustrations.
The key is that each adult in the school focuses on helping students bolster their strengths, discover their affinities, and realize their personal visions for the future. Help cultivate a positive atmosphere to promote student achievement and overall successes.
Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 40 No. 14 The Advisor as Positive Coach
I&P Vol. 39 No. 16 Establishing Student Achievement Levels
I&P Vol. 34 No. 8 The Student Culture Profile and Your Purpose and Outcome Statements