The World Positive Education Accelerator
In June 2018, over 800 people from over 30 countries gathered in Fort Worth, TX to turn inspiration into action at the World Positive Education Accelerator (WPEA). Co-convened by the David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry and the International Positive Education Network (IPEN), the WPEA brought together, educators, students, parents, researchers, policy makers, business leaders, philanthropists, and foundations interested in accelerating education that, in addition to focusing on academic excellence, also imparts the tools and skills that enable wellbeing and human flourishing. On Day 1 participants learned about research, applications, and innovations happening in education and in positive psychology today. On days 2-4, they used the appreciative inquiry summit methodology to elevate the strengths in the room, generate a vision for positive education's potential, and design and launch initiatives that will accelerate positive education around the globe. At the links below, please find materials that guided us through all 4 days of the event (WPEA Program and Summit Workbook), as well as materials that document our time together (Graphic Facilitation Charts, The WPEA Report):
What is Positive Education?
Positive Education unites the exciting new science of positive psychology and related disciplines with the study of education's most promising innovations to enable human flourishing and academic excellence as complementary aims of education. It believes in education of the head and the heart. Its goal is to equip people—students, teachers, school systems, and community partners—with the well-being skills and tools to flourish, and contribute to the flourishing of others, in ways that support and strengthen traditional learning. Positive Education encompasses concepts including:
- Character strengths
- Growth mindset
- Learned optimism
- Grit and resilience
- Strength-based, no deficit-based, thinking
- Active Constructive Responding
- Empathy and Compassion
Through training for teachers and staff, curriculum design, measurement and assessment tools, a whole school approach, and in cultivating positive relationships, schools can impart skills and tools that will raise psychological wellbeing and encourage human flourishing.
Rigorous studies show that positive education can raise overall levels of curiosity; elevate love of learning; promote heightened engagement; create better learning outcomes; contribute to more thriving learning communities; build more elevated emotion such as hope, inspiration and joy; generate increases in social intelligence and better relationships; lead to stronger career opportunity and success; support better health and decrease risky behaviors; open minds toward acceptance and inclusion of others; build leadership capacities; and serve as preventative and as a provider of better routes to treatment of depression, despair, or thoughts of suicide than anything pharmacologically. Positive education could take us to a whole new place in dealing proactively, positively and prospectively with the complexities faced by today's students.
How did the WPEA come about?
The World Positive Education Accelerator is the brainchild of Martin Seligman (founding thought-leader of Positive Psychology) and David Cooperrider (founding thought-leader of Appreciative Inquiry). When on tour together in Australia, they realized that positive psychology, with its focus on individuals and relationships, and Appreciative Inquiry, with its ability to move systems and institutions, could be tectonic if combined and applied to education. They proposed using the AI Summit methodology to take Positive Education to the next level. What followed was a groundswell of interest, including that of Bob Stiller of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (now Keurig Dr. Pepper), who credits the incorporation of Appreciative Inquiry into the corporation's management practices as key to his company's success. Champlain College received a $1 million gift from the Stiller Family Foundation in 2016 to support the Cooperrider Center's planning and convening of a Positive Education Summit that would use Appreciative Inquiry (AI) to accelerate positive education from early childhood on up. This led to the Cooperrider Center partnering with IPEN, the leading global network dedicated to the advancement of positive education around the globe.
A critical first step was the Steering Committee Meeting. Held at Champlain College in September 2017, it brought together 105 members from 17 countries and included teachers, students, headmasters, researchers, CEOs, consultants, philanthropists, business leaders and foundations. Over the next year, this group worked together to identify critical stakeholders that represent the whole system, engage those people and organizations, establish the overarching theme of the summit, determine necessary content, and structure summit processes to encourage generative actionable ideas.
What's happening now?
The Cooperrider Center has spent the last six months speaking with attendees to learn of the ripple effects catalyzed by our work at the WPEA. We've heard about the changes directly to a child in a classroom, whose sense of self and self-worth has been strengthened through an environment of positivity and character building. We've learned of regional and country-wide efforts in Europe, Singapore, Nepal, America, and Canada, to bolster the application of positive education principles and practices for educators at middle, high school and post-secondary schools. And, in what may have the broadest reach, we heard of the conversation now being held at the United Nations, through their Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), to use appreciative inquiry practices to activate positive education globally on behalf of UNITAR's Global Goals for wellbeing.
Capturing these stories has been a joy. We share some highlights below, invite you to view more on our WPEA Stories of Impact playlist., and check out our map of impacts. We hope you view this celebration with wonder and pride. Hundreds of participants from around the globe returned from the WPEA certain that they could better the lives of children near and far, and are now doing just that.
For more information, to submit YOUR story of impact, or to be connected to a group of WPEA attendees holding monthly meetings about their work, please contact the Cooperrider Center (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- IPEN's 2017 State of Positive Education Report.
- Adler, Alejandro, "Teaching Well-Being Increases Academic Performance: Evidence from Bhutan, Mexico and Peru," University of Pennsylvania, January 2016.
- What is Positive Education?
- Is Strength-Based Learning a "Magic Bullet"? Positive Psychology Inspires a New Trend in Learning
- Chapter 4: Positive Education of the Global Happiness Policy Report 2018
- Common Language, Uncommon Community: Strengths Language Moves Beyond Classroom To Transform School
- Positive Education: The School of Wellbeing
- Your Next Project's Success Starts With a Positive Vision: Here's Why
- White, Matthew A. and Simon A. Murray, "Evidence-Based Approaches in Positive Education: Implementing A Strategic Framework for Well-being in Schools," 2015.
- Cooperrider, David L. and Michelle McQuaid, "The Positive Arc of Systemic Strengths: How Appreciative Inquiry and Sustainable Designing Can Bring Out the Best in Human Systems," The Journal of Corporate Citizenship No. 46, The Positive Psychology of Sustainable Enterprise (Summer 2012), pp. 71-102.
- Seligman, M. E. P., Ernst, R. M., Gillham, J., Reivich, K., & Linkins, M. (2009) Positive education: Positive psychology and classroom interventions. Oxford Review of Education, 35, 293-311.
- Cooperrider, D., and Godwin, L., 2011 Positive Organization Development: Innovation Inspired Change in an Economy and Ecology of Strengths. In Oxford Handbook of Positive Organizational Scholarship. Kim Cameron and Gretchen Spreitzer (eds.) Oxford: Oxford University Press, p 737-750.