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EDFD682 Positive Education: A Strengths-based Approach

Unit rationale, description and aim

At a time of rapid ongoing change in society and education, the role of educators and allied professionals with specialist knowledge and skills in positive, strengths-based approaches to education is ever more important. In this unit, which lies within the Allied School Psychology specialisation in the Master of Education, students will develop advanced knowledge and understanding of current theories, fundamental concepts and practices related to the study and research of positive and educational psychology in schools and other educational contexts.

Students will explore the impact of and complex relationships between students' social and emotional learning, self-efficacy and self-esteem, as well as motivation and engagement. The importance of psychosocial resources including optimism, self-regulation, empathy and resilience will be investigated. Students will also examine the concepts of psychological flexibility, problem solving, decision making and creativity to enhance life satisfaction. Strengths-based and transformative learning approaches will be evaluated and applied in relation to educational programs and practices as well as building positive work-related identities and learning environments. The aim of this unit is to support students in developing advanced knowledge, understanding and skills in positive, strengths-based approaches to teaching and learning in educational contexts.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Identify contemporary theories and principles of positive psychology, social and emotional learning and strengths-based approaches to educational practice (GA5. GA9; APST 1.2HA; 6.3HA)

LO2 - Synthesise and critically analyse current research to investigate and articulate the complex relationship between psychosocial resources and the development of positive education and schooling that enhances educational potential throughout the lifespan (GA4, GA8. GA9; APST 1.2HA)  

LO3 - Evaluate the impact of transformative and strengths-based approaches to learning through the development and/or implementation of a study that enhances students’ learning skills, social and emotional capability, relationships and engagement in learning (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9; APST:1.2HA,1.3HA,1.5L,2.2HA; 4.1L)

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


On successful completion of this unit, students should have gained evidence towards the following standards:

1.2       Understand how students learn (Highly Accomplished) 

1.3       Students with diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds (Highly Accomplished) 

1.5       Differentiate teaching to meet the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities (Lead) 

2.2       Content selection and organisation (Highly Accomplished) 

3.1       Establish challenging learning goals (Highly Accomplished)

4.1       Support student participation (Lead) 

6.3       Engage with colleagues and improve practice (Highly Accomplished)


Topics will include:

  • Perspectives on positive psychology, theory and practice
  • Strengths-based approaches in education
  • Social and emotional learning 
  • Building positive communities, cultural differences, parental partnerships
  • Positive schooling and environments, motivation and engagement in learning 
  • Positive thinking, emotional states and processes
  • Psychosocial resources: positive cognitive states, self-efficacy, optimism, mindfulness, teaching intelligent behaviours, creativity 
  • Building positive communication, positive teaching, developing empathy, interpersonal, family, school and community relationships 
  • Prosocial behaviours, principles of and practices
  • Stress, coping and resilience
  • Assessment and evaluation of positive approaches in education
  • Positive futures: a critical reflection

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is offered in multi-mode and will be supported by a unit LEO (learning environment online) site. The unit may be delivered via a combination of strategies including individual and group work, activity-based workshops, formal presentations and online activities. Engagement for learning is the key driver in the delivery of this curriculum. The unit will facilitate active participation in pedagogical approaches that demonstrate alignment of teaching, learning and assessment.  

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as reading, reflection, discussion, webinars, podcasts, video, workshops, and assignments etc. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to successfully complete this unit, postgraduate students need to complete and submit two graded assessment tasks. The assessment strategy used allows students to demonstrate their knowledge and skill related to positive psychology a strength based approach. 

The first task (40%) requires students focus on contemporary theories and principles of positive psychology in the context of current research in the field. The second task (60%) requires students to develop and/or implement and action plan that enhances students’ learning skills, social and emotional capability, relationships and engagement in learning.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1

Written Task focused on contemporary theories and principles of positive psychology, social and emotional learning and strengths-based approaches to educational practice in the context of current research in the field.


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Assessment Task 2 

Positive Education Plan of Action 

Development and / or implementation of a study within an educational context that enhances students’ learning skills, social and emotional capability, relationships and engagement in learning.

Select A: (or B: 

A,Design a well-researched proposal for a plan of action relevant to an educational context and aligned with the theory and principles of positive psychology.

B,I Implement and evaluate a well-researched study relevant to an educational context and aligned with strengths-based approaches to enhance learning in schools.  


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Boniwell, I. (2012). Positive psychology in a nutshell. UK: Open University Press. (ebook)

Caine, R. & McClintic, C. (2014). Handling student frustrations: How do I help students manage emotions in the classroom? USA: ASCD Arias.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). Applications of flow in human development and education: The collected works of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). Flow and the foundations of positive psychology: The collected works of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.

Goleman, D. & Senge, P. (2014). The triple focus: A new approach to education. Florence, MA: More Than Sound/Key Step Media

Lopez, S.J., Pedrotti, J.T. & Snyder, C.R. (2014). Positive psychology: The scientific and practical explorations of human strengths (3rded.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. (ebook).

Seligman, M.E.P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York: Free Press. 

Sinnott, J. (Ed.). (2013). Positive psychology: Advances in understanding adult motivation. New York: Springer. (ebook)

Swinson, J. & Harrop, A. (2012). Positive psychology for teachers. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Young, J. (2014). Encouragement in the classroom: How do I help students stay positive and focused? Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL)

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