Strengths-Based Education and Student Engagement

by Shane J. Lopez, Ph.D.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Commitment to Student Strengths and Engagement                                                                                                                                                                                     

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

The Gallup Student Poll revealed that a school’s commitment to strengths is associated with higher student engagement. Around 84% of students who strongly agreed with "My school is committed to building the strengths of each student" were engaged at school, as measured by the 5-item Engagement Index. Only 3% of students who strongly agreed with this statement were deemed actively disengaged.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

The implications of the finding that a school being committed to student strengths corresponds with engagement are significant as engagement promotes productivity and job retention (Harter, Schmidt, & Hayes, 2002). This research on employee engagement is clear and the latest research on student engagement (Gallup, 2009a; Gordon, 2006) and student achievement makes a strong case for building engaged schools.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Commitment to building the strengths of each student is associated with several of the conditions necessary for student engagement. Correlational analyses suggested that there are moderate correlations between student responses to the strengths item and to feeling safe at school and that schoolwork is important, having the opportunity to do what you do best, and receiving recognition or praise for good schoolwork.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

 School change, on any scale, requires commitment to meaningful goals by faculty, staff, and parents. One school improvement effort that may help students become more involved with and enthusiastic about school is development of the strengths of each student. Demonstrating a commitment to building the strengths of each student could create better conditions for teaching and learning. Educators having a one-on-one strengths conversation with each student and letting parents know that the school focuses on what is right with each student could achieve a fully strengths-based school.

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References

Gallup. (2009a). Building engaged schools: A scientific method for improving school performance. Omaha, NE: Author.

Gallup. (2009b). Relationships between hope, engagement, well-being, income, and teacher-student ratio in March 2009 Gallup Student Poll. Unpublished raw data. Omaha, NE.

Gordon, G. (2006). Building engaged schools: Getting the most out of America’s classrooms. New York: Gallup.

Harter, J. K., Schmidt, F. L., & Hayes, T. L. (2002). Business-unit-level relationship between employee satisfaction, employee engagement, and business outcomes: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(2), 268-279.

Lopez, S. J., & Louis, M. C. (2009). The principles of strengths-based education. Journal of College and Character, 10, 1-8.

Louis, M. C. (2008). A comparative analysis of the effectiveness of strengths-based curricula in promoting first-year college student success. Dissertation Abstracts International, 69(06A). (UMI No.)

 

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