What is Strengths-based Learning at George Street Normal School?

A strengths-based approach in education is an "intentional manner of teaching and learning that is receptive and responsive to children’s existing competencies with the purpose of enhancing new learning and well-being" (Galloway & Reynolds, 2015, p. 7). At George Street Normal School we often refer to "strengths-based learning" as a way of mobilising and leveraging children's strengths. Put simply, strengths-based learning is learning that builds on past success.

Strengths-based approaches are used at George Street Normal School to enhance student engagment and well-being. 

  • Every child is encouraged to recognise, apply and develop their strengths;
  • Individual differences are catered for by offering children choices about what or how they learn according to their strengths;
  • Strengths choices form the basis of our electives, clubs, music and sports programme;
  • We encourage children to build on their strengths as well as improve areas they find difficult or challenging. Each child has at least one strengths-based goal and one challenge goal;
  • There are 21 strategies and 11 age-appropriate tasks that teachers use to harness children's strengths, collectively referred to as the GSNS "Sundial Project" (“Hide not your talents, they for use were made. What's a sundial in the shade?” - Benjamin Franklin).
  • Outcomes of the Sundial Project contribute to: (1) our children's high academic, sporting and cultural success, and (2) improved student well-being. 


Strengths at George Street Normal School are defined as:

  • the skills, thinking and behaviours that allow a person to feel energised and successful. Whatever enables a child to feel capable is a valid and important part of who they are. We describe a combination of what children enjoy, are excited by and excel at, as a ‘3eMe’ strength identity;

  • action strengths, character strengths and thinking strengths; 

  • the vital spark in learning that links motivation, engagement, achievement, self-belief and confidence.


Why are strengths-based approaches important?

In our hurry to have all children good at all things, there is temptation for teachers and parents to focus on a deficit model of child development. By contrast, when programmes of strengths identification, application and development are provided, children, parents and teacher balance the need to address weakness with the benefits of building confidence and self-belief. We want children to leave our school knowing more about their strengths than anyone else and leave school happy with who they are. We believe that student well-being is as important as student achievement and that both are reqiured to be successful at school. Children who know their strengths understand when, and how, they are successful. Children who have regular opportunities to develop their strengths are more likelty to flourish.

This is what our children tell us:

“Teachers let me use my strengths to my advantage” 

“I am given choices in my learning”

“I have discovered strengths. I have learnt that I am good at a lot more things.”

“Everyone at school, students and teachers have made me feel really happy about myself. They make me shine and congratulate me when I’ve done well or even if I tried my hardest.”

Teachers observe that some children have benefited from improved concentration. There are fewer behaviour problems and more enthusiastic participation in school life since the introduction of strengths-based learning.

This is what teachers tell us:

"Children have a greater degree of ownership when working on their strengths”

"Children achieve quickly and highly when given the opportunity to experiment and develop while pursuing an area of strength" 

"Children are much more motivated when they are working towards a strength-based goal.”

This is what parents tell us:

"Electives are a favourite of my child"

"There are excellent teachers at George Street who really know my child and their strengths""

There are so many opportunities available for children to develop interests and skills, not just academic and sport"


If you would like more information on our strengths-based approaches contact: Rod Galloway (rod@georgestreet.school.nz)