The Art of Positive Psychology

The positive psychology teacher is an artist.

Posted Nov 26, 2012

When you teach the algebraic equation, do you also teach the formula for sharing knowledge with others? When you teach the unique characteristics of the planets, do you also teach about the unique characteristics of the person?

The art of positive psychology is a multi-dimensional, mixed-media art form that avoids compartmentalized, discipline-discrete instruction and embraces integrative, multi-discipline-enriched teaching. How fast did Paul Revere travel on his midnight ride through Boston? How far did he travel? Were there other faster or shorter routes through town? What year was it? What other important events occurred in that same year? Was his message important? How did he feel riding fast through the dark? What strengths does Longfellow capture in his famous poem about him?

As in art, every subject that must be mastered - and every skill that must be acquired - is the basis for cognitive, affective, and conative development. What can I know about this person, place, or thing? What do I feel? What action can I take, what problem can I solve, what project can I complete? Carl Jung described the art of teaching in this way, “One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our feelings.”

The positive psychology teacher adopts a new taxonomy. Taxonomy is the science of categorizing related concepts and education taxonomies classify the content -- or the subject taught. Defining and developing an educational taxonomy is the first step in building learning structure and content. Before the teacher can teach effectively, they must determine what to teach. Educational taxonomies that identify categories of learning and instructional goals generate a curricular map for the teacher to follow.

While traditional educational taxonomies are primarily concerned with how to best teach subject area content and how to build a child’s academic knowledge -- reading, writing, and arithmetic taxonomies also need to address what to teach so as to develop well-rounded children who learn to thrive in the school setting and throughout their adult lives. Education must address more than the accumulation of subject-area knowledge. New taxonomies must incorporate emotional education into the more traditional education paradigm.

The new taxonomy of positive psychology teaching creates a new mosaic of cognitive and emotional learning. The art of positive psychology is the art of self-discovery.

What will your students discover about themselves, others, and their world today?

What picture will they paint?


Explore: Schools as Ecosystems

Read: A Primer on Teaching Positive Psychology

Review: Bloom’s Taxonomies

Visit: The Paul Revere House

I would love to hear from you. Do you think teaching is more art or science? How is it an art? What medium of art expression is analogous? Are you familiar with Bloom’s affective taxonomy? Do you think the three domains of Bloom’s learning taxonomy are given equal attention in the classroom? How do you balance the teaching of the cognitive and affective taxonomy in your classroom? What is an example of a lesson that you use to teach cognitive, affective, and conative learning using an interdisciplinary approach or the “mosaic” effect?


My upcoming book, Positive Psychology in the Elementary School Classroom, is the first in a series intended to help teachers build positive psychology classrooms.

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