The Positivity Project’s Alignment With The Framework Of Social-Emotional Learning, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, and Restorative PracticesBy Melissa Killingbeck
The research is clear; our ability to build positive relationships is under assault as narcissism and loneliness have increased amongst Americans. The Positivity Project (P2) mission is to empower America’s youth to build positive relationships and become their best selves. Positive psychology teaches us that positive relationships are the cornerstone of health, happiness, and resilience. By consistently teaching our youth about the character strengths that everyone possesses, they will begin to see people based on the content of their character. This ability will enhance their self-awareness and self-confidence, understanding and appreciation of others, and interpersonal relationships – which will positively influence our youth (individually and collectively) across their lifespans.
Social-Emotional Learning is considered an essential element of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and Restorative Practices. When implemented school-wide with fidelity — SEL, PBIS, and Restorative Practices work together to build safer, more effective schools by improving disciplinary practices and empowering students to build relationships (P2RC, 2019).
Social-Emotional Learning (SEL):
SEL is the key to successful relationships throughout an individual’s youth and later in life, and is most effective when taught in schools Pre K-12. Through SEL, students learn about themselves and how to identify their strengths and weaknesses both inside and outside of the classroom. The lessons of P2 are grounded in positive psychology and the Other People Mindset. Many experts believe that helping students build crucial soft-skills, in addition to academics, is one of the best ways we can prepare our students for jobs of the future. Studies at Oxford University and MIT, respectively, predict that as many as 47% of U.S. jobs are at “high risk” for being automated. As we move into the future, employees who posses soft-skills, such as persuasion, negotiation, group dynamics, framing and solving open-ended problems, human interaction, and nurturing, will be in high demand.
Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS):
PBIS is an evidence-based, three-tiered framework that combines systems, data, and school-wide practices with the goal of improving outcomes for all students. School stakeholders work together to set and achieve goals towards desired outcomes, such as improved social and academic outcomes, a reduction in discipline referrals and exclusionary disciplinary practices, and an improved overall school climate. Tier 1 PBIS practices should impact all students across all school settings– including students with disabilities. These practices include: developing, defining, and teaching school-wide behavior expectations, establishing consequence systems with an emphasis on proactive reinforcement of desired behavior, and the collection and use of data. (PBIS.org, 2019).
Similarly, Restorative Practices is an evidence-based strategy grounded in the belief that traditional discipline practices, which rely on punitive and exclusionary outcomes, are largely ineffective and disproportionately impact students of color and at-risk youth. Restorative Practices are processes that schools implement to prevent conflict and wrongdoing by proactively building positive relationships and a sense of community (IIRP, 2020).
The Positivity Project empowers students with the social-emotional skills needed to build positive relationships– the bedrock of PBIS and Restorative Practices. Explicit daily instruction around the 24 character strengths and the Other People Mindset elements helps students learn essential SEL skills that allow them to:
- Recognize their feelings, interests, strengths, and limitations (self-awareness)
- How to regulate emotions and manage daily stressors (self-management)
- Perspective-taking, empathy, and an appreciation of similarities and differences (social awareness)
- Exhibit prosocial behavior and demonstrate positive social skills to develop meaningful relationships (relationship skills)
- Make ethical decisions, and strengthen the ability to develop appropriate solutions to identified problems (responsible decision making)
Aligning The Positivity Project with School-Wide PBIS and Restorative Practices
At P2, everything we do — every lesson, project, and activity we offer, comes back to our mission of empowering students and supporting them in learning how to build positive relationships that last a lifetime. By following a model that includes consistently teaching the 24 character strengths within us, students not only build the skills of understanding and recognizing character strengths in themselves and others, but through the P2 curriculum and activities, students are supported and empowered to apply those skills to the real world. Furthermore, by including resources in English and Spanish differentiated Pre K – 12 and a family engagement component, P2 for Families, the P2 movement is working to further reduce the opportunity gap by providing all students with the skills they need to succeed in school and life.
P2 Impact and Research:
Since the early days, we’ve emphasized our research-based approach as our founding Board Members included professors from the University of Wisconsin and the University of California-Irvine. It has become evident that qualitative feedback from Partner Schools is more indicative of the impact than quantitative, as there are so many variables at play in a classroom and school. That said, below is some additional information that is helpful in understanding the impact and research at P2.
- Research-based – We are grounded in the work of Dr. Chris Peterson, the co-author of the 800-page book Character Strengths and Virtues. Before writing this book, Dr. Peterson led a 40-person team, over three years, to better understand character and its manifestations. This is the best and most comprehensive analysis in the world of what comprises our character. You can learn more here. We are also grounded in the research of relationships, led by institutions such as Harvard, which you can learn more about here.
- Justin Garwood, an assistant professor at the University of Vermont’s College of Education and Social Services, submitted a request to the U.S. Department of Education to formally study The Positivity Project using proper measurement tools to help isolate the variable of The Positivity Project in the research. As you know, there are many variables at play when looking at the complexity of a classroom or school—attempting to measure the impact of an SEL/character education program through attendance, behavior, or academics — without the proper tools to isolate that program as the variable poses a lot of challenges.
- Impact – The most important, the best way that we can measure our impact at this time is our continued retention and growth of Partner Schools. We continue to grow — from one Partner School in 2015 to over 650+ Partner Schools nationwide today — because it works. Schools don’t have to do this. It’s not mandatory. They choose to pay $1,495/year because they’re seeing an impact on their building. Below are a handful of examples of this impact:
- On March 11, P2 was featured on ABC’s The View to highlight the incredible work happening in P2 Partner Schools. You can find that 6-minute segment here.
- At Pittsburgh’s Lincoln Elementary School, discipline data improved from 143 total days suspended to 9 in just two school years. You can see a video about their story here and you can find an image of the data here.
- Here is a Facebook post from a P2 teacher that encapsulates the impact in classrooms where teachers commit to teaching the character strengths. He begins his post by explaining, “Today at school I had one of the most powerful talks I’ve had in my teaching career. We are doing a character-building program called The Positivity Project, and our focus for the week was ‘Perspective’. During our discussion today…”
- Here is a blog post from the Potsdam Central Schools superintendent explaining how P2 is allowing her elementary teachers to meet the NYS mental health standards.
- Here is an article about a school in North Carolina in which the principal said, “I was getting a lot of feedback about how it was creating more self-aware students who were increasingly empathetic and more humble about how they approach things, that they were persevering more through problems and starting to solve problems on their own rather than having to have adults solve problems for them.”
- Here is a video from the local news in Virginia about P2’s impact at a Fairfax County elementary school in which a parent said, “As a parent, it’s very important to me when my children are not only learning about science and math and social studies. But they’re also learning what it means to be a good community member.”
- P2YouTube Library is full of videos that showcase teachers and students discussing the impact of P2 within their buildings and themselves.
In conclusion, by explicitly teaching important SEL concepts through The Positivity Project, they become easily woven into school-wide PBIS and Restorative Practices frameworks. Students learn to recognize, appreciate, and articulate positive character traits in others with an understanding of the “who” rather than the “what” of a person, which is the foundation of authentic relationships. These connections will enhance students’ self-awareness and self-confidence, understanding, and appreciation of others, and interpersonal relationships — which will result in improved classrooms and school-wide communities, positively influencing our youth, individually and collectively, across their lifespans.
Wondering what The Positivity Project could look like in your classroom? We’d like to invite you, and any of your colleagues, to see what #PositivityInAction looks like with a free 7-day trial. You can sign up here so that you can get a true sense of The Positivity Project’s benefits: easy and adaptable for teachers, engaging and impactful for students, and a schoolwide common vocabulary, and positive culture.