VIA Survey FAQsBy Jeff Bryan
Over the last few weeks, a lot of people have reached out with questions about the Values in Action (VIA) Character Strengths Survey. So, I’d like to use this blog post as a way to comprehensively answer them.
As background, The Positivity Project is not affiliated with the VIA Institute. However, we do strongly encourage teachers to take the VIA Character Strengths Survey as part of their introduction to The Positivity Project. That’s because the survey, initially developed with Dr. Chris Peterson’s leadership, helps teachers know themselves better — and internalize the character strengths vocabulary and concepts.
FAQ 1: Why do some of the VIA character strengths have different names than Positivity Project character strengths?
The Positivity Project’s character strength names are derived from our interpretation of Drs. Peterson and Seligman’s Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. In the 800-page book, the authors list various potential names for many of the 24 character strengths. We selected the names that we believe will be best understood by students in all grades from K-12 — and remain a useful part of students’ vocabulary over the course of their lives.
FAQ 2: Where do we go to take the VIA Survey?
The VIA Institute has two different surveys, one for adults and one for children (age 10-17). It is up to schools whether or not their teachers or students take the VIA Character Strengths Survey. You can find both surveys here.
FAQ 3: What about students under the age of 13? How do teachers administer the VIA Survey without students creating their own accounts?
There definitely is a great way for students take the VIA Survey without providing any personal information. If your students are under age 13, or if they’re over 13 but you do not want students to provide their email address, you can set up a Teacher Site here. As the VIA explains on their site, “Teacher Sites are special ‘master’ accounts that allow teachers to generate unique links that allow students to safely take the VIA Youth Survey without creating their own individual accounts. The students’ survey results can then be easily viewed and stored on the Teacher’s secure site.”
FAQ 4: I don’t want my students to receive questions for the VIA Institute’s character strength of spirituality. How do I change that?
During the Teacher Site setup, you’ll be prompted to select an option for this strength. You can choose spirituality or sense of meaning. Please see the image below.
FAQ 5: We have about 3,000 students in our building. We plan to have them all take the VIA Survey at the same time. Will the website load with that amount of students participating simultaneously?
This is a much bigger load on the server than the VIA Institute is used to. If it’s it possible to have the registrations staggered across a 20-minute time span, that would help their system. If you have this specific question, definitely reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll connect you with the VIA Insitute.
FAQ 6: What about negative emotions, rather than just “strengths”? Life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, you know.
We agree. Negative emotions have an important role to play in our lives. When we recognize and properly manage these emotions they help to protect us from danger and vices — and move us toward positive action.
The importance of negative emotions — and experiences — is actually a key tenant in positive psychology. Drs. Peterson and Seligman made this point in Character Strengths and Virtues by explaining, “There is a temptation to regard positive psychology as focusing on the stress-free individual, but this is a mistake…In accentuating the positive, we cannot ignore the negative. Conditions of adversity, whether external or internal, must be part of what we address in discussing character strengths.”
For example, we can’t be brave without first feeling fear; we can’t show self-control without first feeling temptation; we don’t persevere without first wanting to quit.
So, as you discuss these strengths with your students, please let them know that positive psychology and the P2 aren’t about “embracing false positivity” — but instead about leveraging our character strengths and building positive relationships so that we can all live healthier, happier, and more resilient lives.