Fostering wellbeing and resilience in primary schools
Character Strengths are the distinctive qualities that are the best in us. They reflect what is important to us, what we value. When we know and live our strengths we can improve everything that we do. Strengths allow students to see difference as strength. Research into character indicates that when we know and apply our specific character strengths our wellbeing and life satisfaction improves.
Peterson & Seligman (2004) developed The VIA Classification of Character Strengths and Virtues. This was the result of three years of study involving fifty-five scientists. It concluded that there are twenty-four character strengths that are valued across cultures, religions, gender, and race. These are categorized into six virtues: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence.
Next Peterson and Seligman (2004) developed the VIA Survey, which can be completed for free at www.viacharacter.org. This has 120 questions which provides individuals with their own unique Strengths Profile. Our top five strengths are referred to as signature strengths (SS) and Dr Seligman states that when we employ these strengths we improve our level of wellbeing, thus maximising opportunities to flourish. Understanding our SS increases our self acceptance and understanding of self. Studies demonstrate that SS have a positive relationship with academic performance and motivation.
Teachers report that when they employ their signature strengths they are more inspired in their teaching, have increased satisfaction in teaching and have higher morale amongst colleagues. They also state that utilising character strengths with students creates calmer classrooms with less requirements for discipline as students are more engaged and committed to learning.
The 6 virtues and 24 character strengths are outlined below: