Sunday, 7 September 2008

There was an interesting article in the Sunday Times today about Martin Seligman's work on 'positive psychology' being launched as a national programme following a small scale pilot in South Tyneside, Hertfordshire and Manchester...

I remember this initiative starting and this was on the blog in May 2007!

Despite everything research suggests that we are no happier now than we were 50 years ago. In his book 'Authentic Happiness' Martin Seligman argues that happiness is not the result of good genes or good luck and that we can teach people to be happy by cultivating and using many of the strengths and traits colleagues possess including kindness, originality, humour, optimism and generosity. by identifying the very best in ourselves Seligman argues that we can improve the world around us and achieve new and sustainable levels of commitment, contentment and meaning.

Lord Richard Layard, Director of the Well-being Programme in the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, argues that the key to success is to give higher priority to promoting better human relationships. He believes that the revolution to build character should be a major aim in every school with expert teachers of PSHE for whom that is their full-time mission and passion. Richard argues that PSHE is an extraordinarily difficult subject to teach but that we increasingly know what works and what does not. PSHE teaching must be based increasingly on evidence based research about what changes children and young people.

And this was on the blog in September 2007!

An American study has found that a school pupil’s self-discipline is a stronger predictor of their future academic success than their IQ, leading researchers to conclude that self-discipline may be the “royal road” to building academic achievement. In a first study, Angela Duckworth and Martin Seligman recruited 140 school children (average age 13 years) at the start of the academic year. In the Autumn, the children, their parents and teachers, all completed questionnaires about the children’s self-discipline. The measures asked things about the children’s ability to follow rules, to avoid acting impulsively, and to put off instant rewards for later gratification. Scores from the different measures were combined to create an overall indicator of self-discipline.The researchers found self-discipline predicted all sorts of academic measures taken seven months later, including the children’s average grade for the academic year, their Spring exam result and their selection into High School. A second study with 164 children (average age 13) followed a similar procedure but also involved the children taking an IQ test in the Autumn. Self-discipline again predicted later academic performance, as measured by their average grade for the year and their Spring exam result. Moreover, the researchers found that the children’s self-discipline scores accounted for twice as much of the variation in their later academic performance as their IQ did. The researchers said “Underachievement among American youth is often blamed on inadequate teachers, boring textbooks, and large class sizes. We suggest another reason for students falling short of their intellectual potential: their failure to exercise self-discipline”.

If you want to find out more you can read the report Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents in the Journal of Pyschological Science at and what does not!

Both Martin Seligman and Richard Layard use the example of the Penn Resiliency Programme in Pennsylvania which focuses on children understanding their own emotions and caring for others. I am not saying that this programme is the answer but it has had incredible outcomes and you can find out more at

This initiative began after the Pacific Institute's Global Conference in York a couple of years ago where Martin Seligman spoke about the Penn Resiliency Programme. The work on well-being and happiness will apparently be showcased at a DCSF supported conference on Tuesday. It has the same basic elements as the Investment in Excellence, STEPS and 'Go For It' programmes we are already developing and delivering here in Leeds... and we know that it works so it is great to see that the DCSF are taking this important work forward.

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