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The “Happy Classrooms” Program: A Spanish Positive Education Initiative

By: Dr. Ricardo Arguís Rey

English translation now available for free download at:

http://www.aulasfelices.org

 

Theoretical foundations

 The “Happy Classrooms” Program is a recent positive education initiative launched in Spain, designed for students in Preschool, Primary and Secondary Schools (children and youth aged 3 to 18 years old), and focused on two fundamental areas: mindfulness and character strengths.

Mindfulness is the first component of our program. There is an increasing amount of research pointing out the positive effects of mindfulness in educational settings (Meiklejohn et al., 2012; Arguís, 2014). We intend to help students become more conscious and mindful as a part of their daily routine as opposed to only practicing mindfulness in isolated moments in the classroom. Thus, they will be able to enjoy the positive things in life and to transform the negative ones in order to reach higher levels of well-being.

Furthermore, mindfulness can be used together with another important strategy: the cultivation of character strengths. Researchers have shown the many benefits that come from the integration of both mindfulness and character strengths (Niemiec, Rashid & Spinella, 2012; Niemiec, 2012 & 2014). It is important to underline that we distinguish two main general approximations in this area, what we call “restricted” versus “open” approaches. Restricted approaches focus on spotting the character strengths that people already posses and finding ways to use these existing strengths as a means of achieving a fulfilling life. In contrast, open approaches take a wider perspective, promoting not only peoples existing strengths, but also the other 24 strengths they could develop. We decided to base our intervention on the entire VIA Classification, designing activities to enhance the full potential of our students based on the whole spectrum of character strengths.

 

Evolution of this program

 The first edition was published on the internet in October 2010, and the second one was released in November 2012, revised and with many more activities for the classrooms. Nowadays, this is one of the more popular positive education programs in Spanish speaking countries, and one of the few in the world completely for free distribution. It has achieved widespread and international recognition by the scientific community and education professionals. It has been presented at many forums and events (Second World Congress on Positive Psychology, First Spanish Congress on Positive Psychology, Second Chilean Conference on Healthy Relationships and Happiness, and Second International Conference on Positive Psychology in the Czech Republic). It has also been included as a reference handbook in masters and doctorates degrees.

Previously only available in Spanish, this handbook has been translated into English (December 2014), and in coming months the French translation will be also released. Its distribution is completely free. The authors allow its diffusion and reproduction, but always with non-commercial purposes and quoting the original source.

 

Putting the program into practice: intervention possibilities

There are three main intervention opportunities with this program: 1) global proposals, 2) specific proposals, and 3) personalized plans. Global proposals constitute a set of general principles that should permeate our teaching (teacher attitude, creating possibilities for “flow”, methodological changes in the classrooms, etc). Specific proposals consist of 321 activities to develop mindfulness and character strengths. Those activities are addressed to all students as a group, so we have included a third strategy – personalized plans – to allow them to develop their specific and personal profile of strengths. All those strategies and activities can be carried out within the general school curriculum, specific subjects, or tutor periods in all educational levels.

 

Implementation of this program and early evidence about impact

Nowadays, there are more than 200 schools in Spain and abroad (mainly in Spanish speaking countries) that are implementing this program. So far, we have received very positive feedback from teachers, students and families. In addition, there are currently several ongoing investigations to empirically validate its effectiveness. We are just about to publish the first results of our own research, with a sample of 368 students in Secondary Education (aged 12-18). Our findings, after a rigorous SEM analysis, have shown an increase in:

Levels of mindfulness

Emotional intelligence

Appreciation of social relationships

Reduction of perceived stress

However, we are still in an early stage of our investigations, so more research is needed to support these and later findings.

 

Contact data:

Dr. Ricardo Arguís Rey

SATI Team –Positive Psychology applied to Education.

Zaragoza (Spain).

http://www.aulasfelices.org

 

Further information: According to the altruistic spirit of our project, we offer the possibility of collaborating with people interested in the promotion of Positive Education, without any commercial interest, delivering lectures and workshops in English or Spanish (in our presentations abroad, we only ask for our travel and accommodation expenses to be covered).

References

Arguís Rey, R. (2014). Mindfulness y educación: Aprendiendo a vivir con atención plena. In A. Cebolla, J. García & M. Demarzo, Mindfulness y ciencia (pp. 129–149). Madrid: Alianza.

Meiklejohn, J., Phillips, C., Freedman, M.L., Griffin, M.L., Biegel, G., Roach, A.,

Frank, J., Burke, C., Pinger, L., Soloway, G., Isberg, R., Sibinga, E., Grossman, L. & Saltzman, A. (2012). Integrating mindfulness training into K-12 education: fostering the resilience of teachers and students. Mindfulness. doi:10.1007/s12671-012-0094-5

Niemiec, R.M. (2012). Mindful living: Character strengths interventions as pathways for the five mindfulness trainings. International Journal of Wellbeing, 2(1), 22-33. doi:10.5502/ijw.v2i1.2

Niemiec, R.M. (2014). Mindfulness and character strengths. A practical guide to flourishing. Boston, MA: Hogrefe.

Niemiec, R.M., Rashid, T. & Spinella, M. (2012). Strong mindfulness: Integrating mindfulness and character strengths. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 34(3), 240- 253.