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A look at the good student in school

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Initial evidence suggests that they also matter for school success e. Additionally, a look at the good student in school achievement was assessed: We found that several character strengths were associated with both positive classroom behavior and school achievement.

Across both samples, school achievement was correlated with love of learning, perseverance, zest, gratitude, hope, and perspective. The strongest correlations with positive classroom behavior were found for perseverance, self-regulation, prudence, social intelligence, and hope.

For both samples, there were indirect effects of some of the character strengths on school achievement through teacher-rated positive classroom behavior. The converging findings from the two samples support the notion that character strengths contribute to positive classroom behavior, which in turn enhances school achievement.

Results are discussed in terms of their implications for future research and for school interventions based on character strengths. Behavior in the classroom was found to predict later academic achievement Alvidrez and Weinstein, 1999 and also important life outcomes in education and the labor market, even beyond the influence of achievement in standardized tests Segal, 2013. Therefore, studying the influence of non-intellectual aspects on educational outcomes has a long tradition.

Also specifically studying good character or positive personality traits had already been addressed by early educational psychologists e. Only with the advent of positive psychology, it has received revived interest. Within positive psychology, education is seen as an important area of application. Inherent in positive education is the idea that good character, positive behaviors at school and academic achievement are not only aims of education, but also closely intertwined. However, little is known empirically about this interplay.

The importance of good character in education has recently been emphasized both in scientific and popular literature e. More specifically, we examine whether character strengths facilitate positive classroom behaviors, which in turn facilitate attaining higher grades. Character strengths are not only expressed in thoughts and feelings, but importantly, also in behaviors Peterson and Seligman, 2004.

Good Student/Bad Student

We expected that a number of strengths are very helpful for schoolwork and are thus robustly related to positive behaviors in the classroom, as the teachers can observe it.

Such positive classroom behaviors, e. We aim to provide a better insight into which aspects of good character are reliably linked with school achievement and positive classroom behavior and for which of the character strengths the link between them and school achievement is mediated by positive classroom behavior.

To achieve this aim, we use two samples representing primary and secondary education, and perform analyses on the level of single character strengths. This detailed level of analysis may be especially interesting when relating the results to programs that emphasize the cultivation of certain character strengths.

The VIA classification describes 24 character strengths, that are organized under six, more abstract, virtues wisdom and knowledge, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence and are seen as ways to reach these virtues. Character strengths are seen as inherently valuable, but also contribute to positive outcomes Peterson and Seligman, 2004.

Character strengths can be seen as a look at the good student in school components of a good character, and are described as the inner determinants of a good life, complemented by external determinants such as safety, education, and health; cf.

Since the development of the VIA classification and the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths for Youth VIA-Youth; Park and Peterson, 2006which reliably assesses the 24 character strengths in children and adolescents between 10 and 17 years, a number studies in different cultures have revealed substantial links between character strengths and subjective well-being of children and adolescents Van Eeden et al.

Character Strengths and School Achievement A large number of studies have examined the links between broad personality traits and academic achievement. These links are largely independent of intelligence Poropat, 2009 and personality traits have even been found to be equally strong predictors of academic achievement than intelligence when they were self-rated, and even stronger predictors when they were other-rated Poropat, 2014a. In the available meta-analyses on the relationship between self-rated personality traits and academic achievement, almost all included studies examined students in tertiary education Poropat, 2009 or they even focused only on postsecondary education e.

A recent meta-analysis Poropat, 2014bhowever, examined the predictive validity of adult-rated personality traits for academic achievement in primary education and found that conscientiousness and openness had the strongest correlations with measures of school achievement.

Still, it has to be noted that we know a lot more about how personality, especially when it is self-rated, is related to academic achievement, and about what might be relevant mechanisms behind it, in young adults than we know about these relationships in children and adolescents.

Some aspects of good character have been studied in relation to school achievement. Duckworth and colleagues Duckworth and Seligman, 2005 ; Duckworth et al. Also other character strengths, such as hope e. In contrast to approaches that consider only some aspects of good character, the VIA classification Peterson and Seligman, 2004 offers a comprehensive catalogue of character strengths.

Weber and Ruch 2012 provided an initial investigation of the role of the 24 character strengths in school.

In a sample of 12-year old Swiss school children, they studied the relationship between character strengths, positive experiences at school, teacher-rated positive classroom behavior, and school achievement. A factor representing character strengths of the mind e. Specific character strengths e. Similarly, in a sample of Israeli adolescents at the beginning of middle school, Shoshani and Slone 2013 found intellectual and temperance strengths to be predictors of grade point average GPA.

Character Strengths and Positive Classroom Behavior Park and Peterson 2006 found moderate convergence between self- and teacher-reported character strengths and argued that certain strengths may be more readily observable in the classroom than others.

Especially phasic strengths, which can only be displayed when the situation demands it e.

The Good Student

Peterson and Seligman, 2004. Even though the frequency might vary, character strengths are expressed in overt behavior, so they should also contribute to positive behavior in the classroom. In particular, temperance strengths e. Other strengths, such as social intelligence should be helpful to manage conflict and relationships with classmates successfully, and thus be related to social aspects of positive classroom behavior e.

Finally, strengths that were found to be related to school achievement, such as perseverance and love of learning, should also be associated with achievement-related aspects of positive classroom behavior e. Empirically, Shoshani and Slone 2013 found interpersonal strengths to be related with social functioning at school, which was rated by the teachers, and thus might represent positive social classroom behavior.

Weber and Ruch 2012 have studied the relationship with character strengths and positive classroom behavior using their Classroom Behavior Rating Scale CBRSassessing both achievement-related and social classroom behavior. Perseverance, prudence, and love of learning showed the most substantial correlations with teacher-rated positive classroom behavior.

Positive Classroom Behavior as a Mediator of the Relationship between Character Strengths and School Achievement High scores in good character do not automatically and directly lead to a look at the good student in school levels of school achievement, but they will predispose students to show a set of more proximate behaviors, which in turn predispose for higher grades later on. Thus, if certain character strengths are identified as being related to school achievement, it is of course interesting to examine potential mechanisms involved.

One likely candidate for explaining this link is positive behavior in the classroom, since the grading of students is largely depending on the behaviors that teachers can observe in the classroom, and especially such behaviors that they value e. Weber and Ruch 2012 used a latent variable representing classroom-relevant character strengths love of learning, perseverance, and prudence showed an indirect effect on school achievement mediated by positive classroom behavior.

After adding the mediator to the model, there was no direct effect of character strengths on school achievement, which is in line which a full mediation by positive classroom behavior.

Aims of the Present Study The presented studies strongly suggest that character strengths are indeed important resources at school, supporting school achievement either directly, or also indirectly via the display of positive behavior in the classroom. There is, however, a need to further investigate these relationships to examine their robustness and also potential moderators. In addition, these initial studies also have several limitations.

First, many included only students in rather narrow age ranges and from one level of education. While the study by Weber and Ruch 2012 does include a broader range of level of education, it may be somewhat limited by the fact that teachers only knew their students for about three months when they were rating their positive classroom behavior.

Second, in most studies, character strengths were analyzed only on the factor level—four factors in Shoshani and Slone 2013 and two factors in Weber and Ruch 2012 —and it is difficult to draw conclusions on the level of specific strengths based on these results.

Doing so may be especially interesting when evaluating the results in light of programs or interventions that build on the cultivation of certain strengths e.

The present studies aimed at replicating the findings by Weber and Ruch 2012 and extending them by including students a look at the good student in school different school types Study 1: We will also investigate for each of the character strengths individually whether the potential link with school achievement is mediated by positive classroom behavior. In doing so, the present study will add to the knowledge on the role of positive traits for positive behavior and achievement at school. While none of the 24 character strengths should be detrimental for positive classroom behavior or school achievement, certain strengths should be more important than others.

Based on theoretical assumptions and previous empirical findings, we expect certain character strengths to be related to positive classroom behavior and school achievement most strongly. These nine character strengths are: Firstly, we expect perseverance to be robustly related to the educational outcomes measured. Such behaviors are highly advantageous in a school environment, in which challenging goals are presented and sustained efforts despite obstacles are needed to accomplish them.

Since perseverant individuals enjoy finishing tasks, the completion of, e. Thus, perseverance can be seen as a helpful resource both for displaying positive behavior in the classroom e. Secondly, self-regulation is expected to be associated with educational outcomes. Self-regulation helps to control own feelings and appetites.

Thus, it is helpful to avoid obstacles and reach goals or meet expectations of others cf. Ivcevic and Brackett, 2014. Consequently, self-regulation will likely go along with helpful behaviors and strategies at school, such as managing time well, making plans and sticking to them, and adhere to rules.

These positive behaviors will be observable in the classroom and may also contribute to higher grades.

Thirdly, we expect prudence to be related mostly to positive behavior in the classroom, but also to school achievement. Students high in prudence that are particularly careful in their choices cf.

  1. The VIA-Youth proved to be a reliable and valid measure of self-reported character strengths in previous studies e. We expected that a number of strengths are very helpful for schoolwork and are thus robustly related to positive behaviors in the classroom, as the teachers can observe it.
  2. Peterson and Seligman, 2004.
  3. Since the development of the VIA classification and the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths for Youth VIA-Youth; Park and Peterson, 2006 , which reliably assesses the 24 character strengths in children and adolescents between 10 and 17 years, a number studies in different cultures have revealed substantial links between character strengths and subjective well-being of children and adolescents Van Eeden et al.
  4. Weber and Ruch 2012 used a latent variable representing classroom-relevant character strengths love of learning, perseverance, and prudence showed an indirect effect on school achievement mediated by positive classroom behavior.

Consequently, they are more likely to comply with rules and work toward achieving what is expected of them. Being prudent may also help to avoid interpersonal problems, and thus lead to better relationships with teachers and classmates, which then may be supportive of school achievement.

Recently, Ruch et al. When we assume that class clowns would score quite low on teacher-rated positive classroom behavior and that their characteristics do not fit well with what is required in the classroom, this suggests that being prudent might be crucial for displaying positive behavior in the classroom. Fourthly, we expect love of learning to be relevant for predicting behavior and success at school. Individuals high in love of learning experience positive emotions when learning new things, and enjoy doing so whenever possible cf.

In any case, attending a school will offer opportunities to learn new things on a daily basis. It is likely that the high intrinsic motivation to learn also leads to better learning outcomes, and that the positive emotions associated with learning additionally foster school achievement cf.

Schutz and Lanehart, 2002 ; Weber et al. In the initial study by Weber and Ruch 2012love of learning, perseverance and prudence were among the most important variables in predicting positive classroom behavior and also had an indirect effect on school achievement through positive classroom behavior. In addition to these four strengths that are assumed to be helpful at school, we also expect hope to be related to behavior and achievement at school.

Hopeful individuals are not only characterized by believing that a positive future is likely, but also by acting in ways supposed to make desired outcomes e. These desired outcomes can be a look at the good student in school in relation to positive behavior in the classroom and to thoughts and behaviors that support achievement, but are not directly observable in the classroom such as favorable attributions, etc.

Earlier studies have also found that hope predicts future academic achievement e.