The development of a school subject, textbook-based programme as a positive psychology intervention to promote well-being in learners

Gush, Marianne (2016-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Positive Psychology has emerged as a paradigm of psychology which emphasises research on and optimisation of well-being and human potential. In light of the rapid development of Positive Psychology and research regarding Positive Psychology Interventions (PPI’s) aimed at improving the well-being of various populations, this thesis had two main goals: firstly, to develop a school textbook for an academic subject (Grade 8 Afrikaans First Additional Language) which, in a natural manner, incorporates the themes and interventions of Positive Psychology into the language learning content; and secondly, to gauge, through a focus group discussion, the reactions to and suggestions for such a textbook from teachers currently teaching the subject. Drawing from seminal works by Abraham Maslow (Self-actualisation) and Hettler (Wellness) and merging them with the developing theories within Positive Psychology (PERMA and the Psycho-social system approach (DPF-5)), as well as the 24 universal character strengths, as identified by Peterson and Seligman (2004), a framework for the textbook was developed. PPI’s were then included systematically to match the existing framework, most commonly as written or oral exercises. Following the development of the preliminary textbook, five experienced teachers currently teaching Afrikaans First Additional Language at three different private schools participated in a focus group discussion in order to illuminate their thoughts, feelings and suggestions relating to the textbook. The discussion was audio-recorded and the recording transcribed for analysis, using a grounded theory approach. The themes identified from the focus group discussion were: the uniqueness of the approach, the hidden curriculum (teaching beyond a subject / teaching as preparing a learner for the future), the learners (what learners enjoy and the relatability of the textbook), standard textbooks or notes, and the academic content. The results indicate a positive view of the textbook as a whole and, specifically, as far as its unique, positive nature is concerned. Surprisingly, the participants felt that using such a textbook would also hold personal advantages for the teacher and not only the learners. The results further pointed out specific areas of concern (difficulty level) or possible difficulty (resistance to change by other teachers) and also possible ways to overcome these potential obstacles (a teacher’s guide, an introduction to the approach and a progression in difficulty level from the first to the last chapters). The collected data from the focus group discussion influenced the textbook development on different levels and served to fill a gap in the literature with regards to teachers’ reactions to Positive Psychology as applied in schools (Positive Education). The textbook itself is the first of its kind and provides a new means by which several PPI’s can be made available to a large population in order to improve adolescent well-being in general. Further research regarding Positive Education as experienced by teachers (in both public and private schools), and the effectiveness of subject, textbook-based PPI, is needed.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die Positiewe Sielkunde het as ʼn paradigma binne die sielkunde ontluik wat die klem op navorsing oor en optimalisering van algehele welstand en menslike potensiaal plaas. Met die oog op die vinnige ontwikkeling van die Positiewe Sielkunde en navorsing oor Positiewe Sielkunde Intervensies (PSI) wat poog om die algehele welstand van verskeie groepe te verbeter, het die huidige tesis twee doelstellings voor oë: eerstens, om ʼn skoolhandboek vir ʼn akademiese vak (Graad 8 Eerste Addisionele Taal) te ontwikkel wat die temas en intervensies van die Positiewe Sielkunde op ʼn natuurlike wyse binne die taalonderrig-inhoud inbou; en tweedens, om deur middel van ʼn fokusgroep-gesprek onderwysers, wat tans binne die onderwys staan, se reaksies en voorstelle vir so ʼn handboek te bepaal. Deur Abraham Maslow se werk oor Self-aktualisering en Hettler se benadering tot Welwees saam te smelt met die ontwikkelende teorieë binne die Positiewe Sielkunde (PERMA en die Psigo-sosiale sisteembenadering (DPF-5)) en die 24 universele positiewe karaktertrekke (deur Peterson en Seligman (2004) geïdentifiseer), is ʼn raamwerk vir die handboek ontwikkel. PSI is toe sistematies bygevoeg om die bestaande raamwerk te pas – oorwegend as mondelinge of geskrewe oefeninge. Na die ontwikkeling van die voorlopige handboek, het vyf ervare Afrikaans Eerste Addisionele Taal onderwysers van drie verskillende privaatskole aan ʼn fokusgroep-gesprek deelgeneem om hulle gedagtes, gevoelens en voorstelle vir die handboek te deel. ʼn Klankopname van die gesprek is opgeneem en is vir data-ontledingsdoeleindes getranskribeer. Data-ontleding het ʼn gegronde-teorie-benadering gevolg. Die temas uit die fokusgroep-gesprek geïdentifiseer, is: die uniekheid van die benadering, die verborge kurrikulum (onderrig vir meer as net ʼn vak / onderrig as voorbereiding vir die lewe), die leerders (wat leerders geniet en ook die toeganklikheid van die handboek), standaard handboeke of notas, en die akademiese inhoud van die handboek. Die resultate dui op ʼn positiewe reaksie tot die handboek as geheel en, meer spesifiek, tot die unieke en positiewe aard daarvan. ʼn Verrassende resultaat van die studie is dat die deelnemers gevoel het dat die gebruik van die handboek, buiten die voordele vir die leerders, ook persoonlike voordele vir die onderwysers kan inhou. Die deelnemers aan die studie het verder ook kommer uitgespreek oor moontlike probleme met betrekking tot die handboek (die moeilikheidsgraad daarvan, sowel as moontlike weerstand van sekere onderwysers), maar het ook moontlike oplossing vir hierdie uitdagings voorgestel (ʼn onderwysersgids, ʼn inleiding tot die benadering vir onderwysers, en progressie in die handboek vanaf eenvoudiger eerste hoofstukke tot ʼn hoër moeilikheidsgraad in latere hoofstukke). Die bevindinge gegrond op die fokusgroep-gesprek het die ontwikkeling van die handboek op verskeie vlakke beïnvloed en het ook ʼn rol daarin gespeel om ʼn gaping in die huidige literatuur, in terme van onderwysers se reaksies op die Positiewe Sielkunde se toepassings binne die onderwys (Positiewe Opvoeding), te vul. Die handboek is enig in sy soort en verskaf ʼn metode om verskeie PSI aan die samelewing beskikbaar te stel om sodoende die algehele welstand van adolessente te verbeter. Verdere navorsing oor onderwysers se ervaring van die Positiewe Sielkunde (binne privaat- en staatskole), en die effektiwiteit van ʼn vak- en handboekgebaseerde PSI word benodig.

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