The Shirley M. Hufstedler School of Education at Alliant International University announced this month that they are sponsoring a course offering classroom teachers a positive approach to traditionally negative issues: student attitudes, student behavior and disciplinary methods. Entitled “Exploring Positivity in Classroom Management: A curriculum of wellness,” this online class is the pilot course for an Alliant institute on urban education taking shape for the 2010-2011 academic year.
Established in 2000 by Dean Karen Webb, Ph.D., the Hufstedler School of Education sets itself apart in its emphasis on the latest neuropsychological research as a way to help teachers adapt to the ever-changing contemporary classroom. So it is fitting that they launch their institute on urban education with a course grounded in the latest from the growing field of positive psychology. Dr. Webb likens positive psychology to an idea from the Akan people of Ghana, SANKOFA: “SANKOFA is the idea that we must build on our past wisdom and our strengths as we move forward into the future. The forward-looking approach offered by positive psychology is vital for teachers and their students.”
While traditional psychology focuses on treating mental illnesses, positive psychology is concerned with maintaining optimal functioning. In other words, it is about finding and cultivating strengths. Alliant’s new course, offered by the nonprofit, Project Happiness, gives teachers the tools to do this. “The overwhelming focus on test scores has taken teachers’ energy away from what is an equally if not more important kind of intelligence: emotional intelligence,” says Project Happiness Director of Education, Abby Konopasky, Ph.D. According to Dr. Konopasky, “Research done by CASEL [the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning]has been building up for the past 15 years showing that emotional intelligence is not only critical for the overall health of young people but actually boosts academic test scores significantly. It’s a win-win.”
“Teachers don’t become teachers because they long to see a spreadsheet of improving grades and test scores,” says Dr. Konopasky. “They want to connect with students and change their lives. We’re hoping to give them some tools to get back to doing that in the midst of a busy day.”