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What Positive Education Looks Like in Action

What Positive Education Looks Like in Action

I recently spent a month at Geelong Grammar School. For any positive psychology or positive education junkies out there, you will know that this is the mecca for wellbeing educators.

A little over 10 years ago a team of teachers from GGS flew to UPenn to learn wellbeing from the godfather of positive psychology, Martin Seligman. The problem- the statistics of mental health among students and staff was distressing (and when you are distressed about the levels of distress you might be in a vicious circle that requires flying across an ocean to find an expert to help). Marty and the team returned to GGS where the branch of educational psychology now known commonly as positive education was born.

What’s different about the way Geelong Grammar School does wellbeing lies in their Learn, Live, Teach, Embed model which has been widely researched. When properly implemented the model:


Decreases depression

A  meta-analysis conducted by Sin and Lyubomirksy (2009) with 4,266 participants found that positive psychology interventions do increase happiness and decrease depressive symptoms significantly.

Teaches students and staff tools to thrive

Schools delivering Positive Education found that the students were able to gain a full understanding of what factors helped a life thrive, flourish, as well as teach them some practical skills for everyday use (Green, 2015).

Improves academic outcome & engagement

The emphasis on positive psychology interventions in education increases engagement, creates more curious students, and helps develop and overall love of learning (Fisher, 2015).

Makes teachers’ lives easier

Creating a school culture that is caring, trusting, and it prevents problem behavior and improves job satisfaction while simultaneously reducing teacher stress (Fisher, 2015).

Higher motivation among students

Goals associated positively with optimism resulted in a highly motivated student (Fadlelmula, 2010).

Boosts resiliency

Results from 19 controlled studies of UPENN’s resiliency program found that students were more optimistic, resilient, and hopeful. Their scores on standardized tests increased by 11% and they had less anxiety approaching exams.

But what exactly does embedded positive education look like?

In the classroom

Positive education is taught as a stand alone subject the students call “Pos Ed” where lessons can range from learning about character strengths,  growth mindset, gratitude, and mindfulness.


Inside other classes pos ed is used as a tool to open conversations.Imagine if in your freshman english class you could discuss the character strengths of various literary heroes and heroines. “What strengths does Juliet show in the final act?”  Or in history a discussion about the second world war, students are asked to ponder if the shadow-side of a strength might have been part of Hitler’s power.


In the staff room

Each year new teachers attend a 3 day Discovering Positive Education course that helps them learn the language and lifestyle of a positive educator.

Returning staff are invited to PosEd 4 U once each term- these 1 hour workshops keep everyone (from maintenance staff to the vice principals) focused on the way they are educating AND the way they model positive psychology to their students. It’s hard to teach students to thrive if the adult role models aren’t also walking the talk!

In admissions

When prospective students arrive to visit GGS the admissions team use the character wheel as a way to encourage them to discuss their strengths. Often admissions sees transcripts and reads what parents have written but hearing first hand what a student thinks they are good at is a great conversation tool.

In the office

One of the best examples of positive education in action comes from the main office administrator. The GGS has a front office entrance that boasts water views and architectural beauty. The back entrance, the one students walk by on a daily basis has a continual progression of memes, cartoons, inspiring thoughts and daily quotes. This is a fabulous example of creativity inspired by being part of a positive education campus.

In the cafeteria

Greetings are heartfelt when you arrive in the cafeteria. And even while eating there are signs that remind students and staff how to fuel a body optimal

 At an outdoor education campus

The Timbertop campus is a unique program at GGS for the first year of high school. In a small, supportive and secure community, students are exposed to intellectual, physical and emotional challenges under demanding environmental conditions.  In total, students camp for between 50 and 55 nights during the year. The most important activity, in terms of time and in the minds of the students, is hiking.  Alpine National Park is challenging – the terrain is mountainous, with routes often involving ascents and descents of 1,000 metres, sometimes all in one day. When they do get home the students are busy chopping wood to fuel the hot water or helping clean the classrooms. Nowhere is resilience more needed and the campus has more overt reminders of Positive Education that anywhere else.

I am fortunate. If Martin Seligman is the founding father of Positive Psychology, our team at the Institute of Positive Education (based out of the Geelong Grammar School campus) are the first family of Positive Education. I think of myself as the crazy adopted cousin from America and I feel blessed beyond belief to be a part of team spreading a new way of educating, where heart and mind are both prioritized.

*If you want to learn more about bringing Positive Education to your school, please contact me through the form below.


World Leaders in Positive Education Announce 2019 Launch of Canadian Office

World Leaders in Positive Education Announce 2019 Launch of Canadian Office

Justin Robinson (IPE Director), Tamara Lechner (Canadian Regional Manager), Ron Lalonde (Middle East Regional Manager), David Bott (IPE Associate Director)

As the mental health of individuals continues to be of growing concern globally, the Institute of Positive Education prioritizes sharing its rigorous, research based programs around the world.

The Institute of Positive Education is internationally acclaimed as a leader in the field, providing positive psychology-based interventions and practices in a school setting. Partnering with the ‘founding father’ of Positive Psychology, Dr Martin Seligman, the Geelong Grammar School team established the field of positive education and created the groundbreaking Learn, Live, Teach, Embed model.  Geelong Grammar School first became the world-leader in delivering evidence-based programs, then forming the Institute of Positive Education (2014) and launching International incubators in Canada and the Middle East (2018).

 The IPE continues to grow its impact in inspiring and supporting schools to discover and implement Positive Education.  In 2018, they delivered 124 training courses comprising 208 training days, which were attended by over 6000 participants.  To meet the increasing demand, the Institute team has doubled in size and created designated teams in training, research, and business development.  Whilst continuing to deliver a range of open-entry courses and workshops, the IPE is increasingly working directly with individual schools to provide whole-school training and in-depth, long-term consultancy to facilitate customized whole-school Positive Education implementation strategies.

The Institute of Positive Education (IPE) is pleased to announce the launch of our Canadian regional incubator as well as the appointment of wellbeing expert, Tamara Lechner, in the role of regional consultant.

 Tamara is a Canadian entrepreneur, educator, writer & speaker whose wellbeing expertise has focused on  positive psychology, meditation, and positive habit formation in schools, corporate settings and for individuals. Her deep belief is that happiness happens by choice, not by chance.

Starting in 2019 the Institute of Positive Education will offer an introductory suite of workshops across Canada. Stay tuned for our launch tour and course listings for the year ahead. 

The First Step to Happier Habits

The First Step to Happier Habits

When scientists discuss wellbeing they look at the domains of PERMA as discussed by Martin Seligman and add H for physical health.

Knowing what is needed to create optimal health and wellbeing is one thing but actually forming the habits of regularly doing what you need to do to thrive is an entirely different skillset. This article is going to take a look at the science of habit formation with the goals of helping you to gain mastery over the tools to be happier by implementing strong habits of mental health.

Habits can be changed if you understand how they work. When you combine the science of habit formation with positive psychology interventions and practices you get:

  • more happiness
  • more positive emotion
  • more wellbeing
  • less rumination
  • less negative emotion

Habit formation is a function of neurology. It happens in the brain and is reflected through all the systems of your body.  In science the patterns of habit look like this:

In yoga traditions dating back thousands of years, we see the same pattern with different words:

Samkara is a memory, conscious or unconscious. Sometimes the memory is at the genetic level. The samskara is in the causal body which is also sometimes called the subtle body where the essence of the individual is enlivened.

Another way of thinking of this is:

Any time you want to change a habit the key is to replace an old belief with a new one. This happens right before the action/karma/routine phase.


One way to do this is through willpower. Contrary to what many people believe, willpower is not an asset but a learnable skill. It’s true that it can feel depleted over the course of the day. This can be largely due to fatigue, hunger, thirst or even limiting beliefs about yourself and your ability to resist temptation.

When I think about forming habits I like to draw on advice from the experts. These strategies are super helpful and there are lots to choose from:

  1. Pairing. Attache something you want to do to something you already do. Keep the vitamins you always forget beside your toothbrush. Allow yourself to binge-watch Netflix when you are on the treadmill.
  2. Reward. The classic star chart. Keep a chart. When you have 30 gold stars get a reward. Ensure the reward aligns with your goal (ie Don’t reward 30 days of running with an ice cream, instead choose a reword of new running pants or a fitbit)
  3. Streak. This refers to making a chain of days in a row. If you use Insight Timer to time your meditations it will show you your number of uninterrupted days. When you have 99 in a row it’s motivating to not have to start over.
  4. Unpairing. Sometimes you will only exhibit an undesired behavior in a certain context. For example may people only smoke when they are drinking. If you decide that you can do one or the other but not both together you have successfully unpaired the habit.
  5. Accountability. Get help. Find some friends who will help keep you accountable. When my husband decided he wanted to work out every day, I would text him a photo of me at the gym, in yoga, or hiking. This took advantage of his competitive nature and got him hooked so he could respond to my texts with one of his own.
  6. Stick. Sometimes the carrot just doesn’t work  If rewards aren’t your thing try a crazy punishment. If you are a republican pledge to donate $500 to the democrats if you don’t stick to your diet. This negative reinforcement tied to how you define yourself can be very successful!

Changing habits begins with a belief in the possibility of change. If you need more motivation to get started, try these great books.