Positive Education: an Action Research

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all” – Aristoteles

In a joint effort with Kessels and Smit, The Learning Company and Take a Step, Garrisson Institute International has started an action research into Positive Education. Over the last years, the idea that it is worthwhile to pay more attention to well-being and whole-child development in education is gaining popularity in the Netherlands. Positive education is an umbrella concept, encompassing all kinds of education where there is room for ‘skills of well-being’, next to the more traditional ‘skills of achievement’.  Or in other words: for ‘educating the heart’ next the ‘mind’. Positive Education draws upon concepts and practices from positive psychology and mindfulness. The goal? To contribute to flourishing students, teachers and learning communities.

The focus of our research project is on how to build positive institutions in education. Realizing that true positive education leans on the right interventions and tools but maybe even more on mindset and culture. In which ways can the whole school – including the parents – work on this together? We support four schools on their path towards more positive education and capture their lessons and experiences along the way.

Despite the challenges of Covid-19 we were able to already interview the four school leaders digitally. In these inspiring interviews, they talked about how they are working on positive education at their school. A few patterns emerge from these interviews: 1. It’s important there is consensus in the team for this approach – teachers and leaders sharing the same dream or vision, 2. The specific interventions have to match the DNA/culture of the school in order for them to ‘stick’, for example: some schools may focus on mindfulness, while others rather focus on the school conversations or on a talent approach, for example 3. School leaders can lead by being an example, practicing what they preach, 4. Parents should be involved as well. The school leaders’ ultimate dream? As one of them puts it: “We would hope where we would get, is that this is something that is so embedded in the culture of our institution, that everybody that’s on the payroll of the school [from our security guards to the people in the cantina to the people in the classroom to our leadership team], feels responsible for helping to teach this. (…) And by the example of the people of the payroll, our students and their parents are also gonna buy into this.”

Besides these interviews, we also took the time to create some (Dutch) online programs featuring inspiration and short exercises in mindfulness, gratitude and talent reflection. Enabling students and teachers to work on their wellbeing during these times of home schooling and corona. These exercises are available for all and can be downloaded at: http://bouwenaanpositiefonderwijs.nl/

If you would like to know more or be updated on the progress as we go along, please feel free to contact Sander Tideman or Jantine Lebbink at office@garrisoninstitute-int.org