Research Not Guesswork
In classrooms that are thriving, educators infuse the language of strengths into their daily curriculum while promoting development of the core components of social and emotional learning (SEL). Students use a strengths lens to ground their understanding of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship building and responsible decision-making.
Greenberg et al., 2003, identified that student competency in these five areas results “in more positive social behaviors, fewer conduct problems, less emotional distress, and improved test scores and grades.” These dramatic outcomes last a lifetime, as evidenced in a new 20-year study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Duke University which showed statistically significant associations between young children displaying strong social and emotional skills and positive outcomes in life across multiple domains of education, employment, criminal activity, substance abuse and mental health (Jones, Greenberg & Crowley, 2015).
The impact of an SEL focus is amplified when an appreciative (versus a deficit-based) approach, focusing on what’s strong, not what’s wrong in every individual, is employed. Work by Peterson and Seligman (2004) and others revealed that there are 24 positive character traits that are universally valued, can be strengthened over time, and appear as a unique constellation of traits within each of us. These positive traits, known as the VIA Classification, provide a universally relevant framework to create a common language for students and teachers to understand and call forth what is best in themselves and others. When learners know and engage their unique constellation of character strengths, research indicates that there are significant impacts on students’ motivation (Elias et al., 1997; CASEL, Safe and Sound, 2005), engagement (Seligman, Ernst, Gillham, Reivich, & Linkins, 2009), learning and performance (Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011).
Additional Research Citations
VIA Character Strengths in Positive Education
An in-depth summary of research findings from the last ten years, including many full references.
Character Strengths and Achievement
A summary of studies conducted over time to examine the link between different types of achievement and character strengths.
Current CASEL Research
As a leader in SEL research, CASEL highlights both their own current research as well as SEL research from the field.