Positive Education: A Case for Character and Coaching

Leadership coach Clive Leach talks to students about positive education

Last year I wrote my first ever book chapter onThe Integration of Coaching and Positive Psychology in Schools’. On the one hand this was a real challenge and on the other it was the most exciting and amazing opportunity! It was a great test of my own character strengths but also a good time to reflect on how we are equipping young people these days to make the transition into healthy, happy and virtuous citizens. With a continued rise in youth mental health problems and so many shocking things happening around the world, Positive Education is becoming an essential component of school life.

I undoubtedly drew on my top ‘Signature’ Strengths of gratitude, hope, curiosity, teamwork and zest! I needed that vitality in the early morning writing sessions before the rest of the day started – but we know that working to our signature strengths gives us energy so that is all good. I certainly had to draw upon some of my lesser strengths, particularly perseverance, bravery and self-regulation. It was not easy when the doubt kicked in and the need to be really self-disciplined became essential to success!

What was most inspiring and encouraging though, next to the support I received from my co-author Dr. Suzy Green and editor Dr. Christian van Nieuwerburgh, was the personal experience I was able to reflect on relating to how character strengths are being applied with children, young people and adults in schools as part of Positive Education programs.

In the past year I have been able to work with year 7, 8, 9, 12 and 13 students within top international schools in China, Hong Kong and Thailand introducing The VIA (Values in Action) Character Strengths Survey to students, their teachers and parents. I am now integrating peer coaching conversations into these programs so students and teachers can support the ongoing application of strengths in support of their academic, professional and personal goals.

With Suzy Green at The Positivity Institute I have also supported numerous evidence-informed Positive Education programs here in Australia in the state and independent school sectors and in leading Australian universities, designed to introduce the language and practice of character strengths, well-being and evidence-based coaching to leaders, educators and students.

I’m delighted that there is an increasing endorsement for Positive Education emanating from the world’s leading positive psychology, education and coaching researchers and practitioners. They rightly argue that schools have a duty to draw on character strengths to develop both the skills of well-being and achievement in young people. The International Positive Education Network is at the forefront of promoting this approach globally and is seeking support for its powerful manifesto.

Character is what builds well-being, resilience, mental toughness and the psychological capital we all need to flourish in the world despite the challenges, uncertainties and fears it throws our way. Through strengths discovery and coaching I believe we are making a real difference to the lives of young people today and in to the future as they transition into higher education, work and adulthood.


This article was originally published on LinkedIn in October 2015 and can be viewed here.

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