Research plan How can Positive Education programs create happier communities?
Author: Jide Alaga
The proposed report will consider the potential of Positive Education [PE] programmes in schools to increase well-being. The appeal of such programmes is that they can benefit very many individuals. The main output of this report will be to identify the actions that can be taken by agents committed to doing the most good using this type of intervention. As such, the primary (but not exclusive) audience is members of the effective altruism community. The report will assume that maximising collective happiness is the aim.
The intention is to split the report into three parts. Part 1 will provide a very short introduction to PE. It will identify the most popular PE programs, how successful they are, and what they are based upon. Part 2 will discuss how PE programs can create happier communities in the long-run in addition to happier students in the short-run. Part 3 will help interested actors explore the potential areas where they can be most useful.
Part 1 - Introduction to PE
What are the general results on well-being?
What are the stand out cases?
What are the different kinds of PE?
What is the underlying theoretical framework behind PE?
What is its well-being effect?
How is it measured?
Part 2 - PE and greater societal happiness
What norms or skills does PE generally produce?
How durable are these norms/lifestyle changes?
How scalable are these norms/lifestyle changes?
What are the main obstacles to PE?
How might it prepare one for the greatest sources of misery outside of school?
Is there enough evidence to make any conclusions?
Part 3 - PE for Effective Altruists
Which actors are in the best position to help with this?
What can they do?
What are the bottlenecks in the way of this happening faster?
What are the possible areas for further research?
What is PE
Positive Education is a style of teaching that merges standard academic education in schools with lessons specifically focussed on increasing the individual well-being of students . This is done primarily through cultivating the character strengths highlighted in positive psychology, such as resilience, trust, and a hopeful sense of the future . Overall, studies show positive education programs increase both the academic performance and the individual well-being of students . Scaling up PE
How might PE increase societal well-being? In the absence of society-wide data on individual wellbeing and its connection to PE, we can infer the wider consequences of PE by determining if learned norms and skills from PE stay in effect throughout high school and well into adult life. There is evidence to suggest that, when done right, education in schools has a good track record of changing behavioural norms in individuals and that investing in these skills early is more likely to create a positive feedback loop of behavioural changes .
Methods and limitations
The report will rely upon case studies of PE programs in effect to support its findings. However, many cases use different metrics to measure well-being, and are similarly non-homogeneous with respect to their program structure and content. This will make any attempt at generalised conclusions problematic. In addition to this, many of the key considerations concerning the impact of PE on society as a whole will likely be speculative. The report will have to make inferences from these programs to discern their wider impact given that their implementers are either not capable of collecting or have not yet collected the necessary data.
 Bott et al. The State of Positive Education. Report. (International Positive Education Network. World Government Summit, 2017), pg 4; Adler et al. Global Happiness and Well-Being Policy Report. Report. (Global Happiness Council, 2019), pg 54.
 The State of Positive Education, pg 33-35.
 The State of Positive Education; Adler, Alejandro. Teaching Well-being Increases Academic Performance: Evidence from Bhutan, Mexico, and Peru. PhD diss. (University of Pennsylvania, Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations, 2016).
 Miller, Dale, and Deborah Prentice. "Changing Norms to Change Behaviour," (Annual Review of Psychology, no. 67, 2016, 339-61), 353-361; Cunha, Flavio, and James Heckman. "The Technology of Skill Formation," (American Economic Review 97, no. 2 2007), pg 31-47.