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Signature Strengths in Positive Psychology


The philosophical roots of positive psychology can be tracedbackto Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, as well as Islamic and Athenian teaching and other ancient scholars, philosophers, and spiritual leaders (Peterson 8c Seligman, 2004). [...] positive psychology is an integrative framework that draws upon the enduring themes and values across time periods and Cultures tO test theories USing Scientific tools designed to diseover not only the elements of human well-being, but also the means by which that well-being can be experienced by all individuals. [...] (a) hope, spirituality, and appreciation of beauty are related to posttreatment recovery from depression (Huta and Hawley, 2010); (b) fostering signature strengths can lead to growth-promoting communities and building group cohesion (Schueller, 2009) ; (c) people high in curiosity reported more frequent growth-oriented behavior and greater life satisfaction (Kashdan 8c Steger, 2007); and (d) even in times of crisis, character strengths related to transcendence and humanity can help people to find meaning and connections with others to enhance their sense of belonging (Peterson and Seligman, 2003).

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									logical Services (NASP, 2000): School psychologists are advised to evaluate interven-                                      Research-Based Practice
tions to determine their effectiveness (Guideline 1.4), disseminate information to
diverse communities (2.3), facilitate development of healthy learning environments
(2.4), function as change agents (2.5), keep informed about advances in curriculum
and instruction (3.7), help schools develop appropriate policies and practices (6.1, 6.3,
6.5), contribute to system change or school improvement plans (6.4), participate in
the development of funding strategies (6.7), promote wellness (7.5), create linkages                                       Signature Strengths in
with community agencies (8.4), and actively participate in public policy discussions
(8.7), to name just a few. While the Guidelines acknowledge that these are “good
practice” guidelines that not all school psychologists will meet in their entirety, these
                                                                                                                           Positive Psychology
are the very kinds of practices that are likely to be constricted by an unwritten rule                                     B y t e R Ry m o lo n y & m a u R e e n h e n W o o d

that all things related to testing come first. If rapid conversion to new test versions                                           ositive psychology can be thought of as the scientific study of what is “right
were an ethical imperative, it may come at the expense of other activities that serve                                             about people” as opposed to the traditional focus on the healing of psycho-
the interests of children and families.                                                                                           logical pain or trauma. The philosophical roots of positive psychology can be
    Just as school psychologists must set priorities among the many tasks that com-                                        traced back to Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, as
pete for their time, school districts set priorities with respect to resources, favoring                                   well as Islamic and Athenian teaching and other ancient scholars, philosophers, and
certain objectives, initiatives, and professional activities at the expense of others.                                     spiritual leaders (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). Thus, positive psychology is an inte-
Thus, school psychologists and other specialists often must battle to have sufficient                                      grative framework that draws upon the enduring themes and values across time pe-
and current materials at their disposal. The ethical issues that come into play in such                                    riods and cultures to test theories using scientific tools          NASP members can join an
                                                                                                                                                                                               online discussion about this
situations were addressed by Jakubowitz and Shill (2008) in the newsletter of the                                          designed to discover not only the elements of human                 article in the Communities
School-Based Issues Division of the American Speech and Hearing Association:                                               well-being, but also the means by which that well-being             area of our website:
                                                                                                                           can be experienced by all individuals.           
     When a new version of an assessment test or protocol is published, the speech–                                            In the quest for a comprehensive understanding of well-being, Peterson and Se-
     language pathologist or audiologist should determine if that new version will                                         ligman (2004) set out to define and classify positive traits in people that could be
     now be used in the work setting. If so, resources for purchase should be identi-                                      examined, researched, diagnosed, and possibly used as interventions. If one consid-
     fied. If they are not readily available, the clinician should work with the super-                                                                                   ers the subjectivity of values, this mis-
     visor to develop a plan and timeline for purchasing the updated version. It is                                                                                       sion appears to be a daunting task, if not
     the clinician’s responsibility to fully inform the supervisor of the need to bud-                                     Being able to measure                          simply undoable. Criticism included ar-
     get for replacement of critical evaluation tests and materials. If the clinician
     runs into resistance from the employer regarding purchasing new tests, then
                                                                                                                           human strengths will not                       guments that the classification system
                                                                                                                                                                          would not be universal (i.e., it would
     it may be prudent to use this opportunity to educate the employer about the                                           only facilitate an under-                      be culturally bound). However, the re-
     need for current assessment tools and tests in advocating for best practices.                                         standing of those                              searchers developed a set of criteria
     In the meantime, any decision for using the older version should be carefully                                         strengths but will also                        to evaluate the characteristics to de-
     made based on the needs of the individual client, not only on the basis of what                                       help in efforts to in-                         termine if ubiquitous virtues exist, de-
     is readily available.
                                                                                                                           crease them in individu-                       spite cultural variations and historical
                                                                                                                                                                          time periods. They limited the search
systeM-Wide Coordination                                                                                                   als and groups of people.                      to ancient civilizations that are gener-
It is reasonable—desirable even—for a school district that makes extensive use of                                                                                         ally recognized as having had a lasting
a particular test to have all staff members use the same version at a given point in                                                                                      impact on humankind. Peterson & Selig-
time, and ideally, over the course of a given school year. This is especially true when a                                                                                 man (2004) reported that indeed there
district—for better or worse—affords significant weight to cutoff scores or formulas                                       was convergence across variables such as time, place, and culture and they delin-
in making educational decisions, as may occur with identification of mental retarda-                                       eated six characteristics that they called core virtues. These core virtues or signature
tion and learning disabilities, or in preschool screening.                                                                 strengths are listed and defined below.
     One consequence of district-wide coordination of test use is that close attention
will be, or should be, devoted to test adoption decisions. A new test version may oc-                                        ■■ Courage:   Emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish
casion a period of review, with careful consideration of factors such as cost, psycho-                                          goals in the face of opposition, external or internal; examples include bravery,
metric properties, administration time, and applicability to the student population.                                            perseverance, and authenticity
This could require a period of a year or more, during which time continued use of                                            ■■ Justice: Civic strengths that underlie healthy community life; examples include
the same measure may be a sound policy.                                                                                         fairness, leadership, and citizenship or teamwork
                                                                                                                             ■■ Humanity: Interpersonal strengths that involve “tending and befriending” oth-
ConCLusion                                                                                                                      ers; examples include love and kindness
More specific or pointed guidelines about timely adoption of new test ve
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