Yeats’ imagery vividly describes Blue Gum’s approach to education – to ignite students’ passion, creative thinking and initiative; rather than force-feeding facts, figures and ‘the right answer’ into their ‘memory banks’!
A Strengths-Based Approach emanates from the evidence-based research work led by internationally-regarded psychologist, Dr Martin Seligman. It underpins the Positive Psychology which is changing educational, psychological and management thinking around the world.
How does a Strengths-Based Approach change schooling?
Traditionally, education focuses on DEFICITS, not strengths – students are constantly measured and tested against a pre-determined narrow set of skills (a process that is similar to grading cans of beans to ensure uniformity). Students achieving high marks are deemed to be successful students, who are rewarded by being allowed to proceed to the next level or stage. Students scoring low marks are labelled as poor learners, and required to keep working at tasks they find difficult, before they can proceed to the next level or stage. The end result of this process, is that a minority of students perform well; are deemed to be academically-capable; and rise to the top of the pile, to be rewarded with a set of ‘keys’ to enter ‘a meaningful and rewarding life’. These are society’s ‘chosen ones’ who fit into the standardised mould and reap the rewards of our traditional education system. Under this model, society is allocating most of its resourcing to enforce a system that isn’t working for most people!
By contrast, a STRENGTHS-Based Approach does not start with a pre-determined narrow set of skills (which are uniform); instead it co-opts the unique qualities/strengths/interests/passions of each person (which differ from person to person). The learning opportunities offered by educators evolve in response to students’ engagement and questions. The significant point of difference in using this approach is that every student can be successful! This personalized approach to learning ensures that society’s resourcing is allocated to a system that works for all, irrespective of their individual mix of skills and attributes – there are no ‘waste products’!
“Childhood is not preparation for life; childhood IS life. A child isn’t getting ready to live; a child is living. No child will miss the zest and joy of living unless these are denied by adults who have convinced themselves that childhood is a period of preparation. How much heartache we would save ourselves if we would recognize children as partners with adults in the process of living, rather than always viewing them as apprentices. How much we could teach each other; we have the experience and they have the freshness. How full both our lives could be…”
John A Taylor, Notes on an Unhurried Journey