When children see themselves as assets, they project a more positive outlook on learning, says a local director of education.
Lakehead University received a $198,000 grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to see how strength-based learning increases student success and reduces bullying.
The university research team has been working with Lakehead Public Schools for the past six years and this money will allow them to expand the program to the Thunder Bay Catholic District School and Conseil scolaire de district catholique des Aurores boreales.
The program began in McKellar Park School and Lakehead Public Schools’ director of education Cathi Siemieniuk said focusing on a student’s strengths can change a school’s culture.
“It creates a more positive school climate for everyone. We’ve seen a more inclusive school culture, one that’s really focused on strengths, more equitable,” she said, adding they’ve also seen a reduction in bullying.
Students are assessed to discover what their strengths are – whether it’s being a good writer or reader or if their strength is more social.
Then staff can adjust their programs and teachings. Students are also encouraged to use their strengths to deal with any issues they may face.
And with the program expanding, this grant will also help the research team evaluate the program.
Director of Lakehead’s clinical psychology program Ed Rawana said over the next three years, they’ll have the program running in most elementary and secondary schools, but will have some schools that don’t use it so they can see how successful it is.
Strength-based programming was developed by Rawana and Keith Brownlee from LU’s school of social work after they worked with young offenders in the 1990s.
They looked to see what issues each youth was dealing with and what the risks were contributing to their problems. Then they’d look at assets to deal with those risks.
The program works by helping students see themselves in a more comprehensive way.
“Rather than seeing what’s wrong with them, this allows them to see what’s right with them,” he said. “They can actually see something about themselves they may not have been aware of.”
The program has also been introduced into some other schools in the region and in southern Ontario.
Siemieniuk believes the program will lead to an overall safer community.
“I think when everyone sees themselves and their gifts and their strengths and what they can do to contribute to society, I firmly believe that will enhance what’s happening within our city and create a better learning community in our schools and a better community for all of us to live in,” she said.
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