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

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 mobilising and leveraging strengths. Put simply, strengths-based learning is new learning that builds on past success.

Seven strengths-based approaches are used at George Street Normal School to enhance learning that:

  • focus on identifying, applying and developing children's strengths;
  • contribute to our high academic, sporting and cultural success; 
  • cater for individual differences, offering children choices about what or how they learn;
  • form the basis of our electives, clubs, music and sports programme;
  • provide a balance in emphasising what children can and can’t do. We encourage children to build on their strengths as well as managing and improving areas they find difficult or challenging;
  • support our school vision of children being active, positive and proud;
  • support our school focus on well-being; 
  • combine with 21 key strategies and 11 age-appropriate tasks, 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).

 

Strengths at George Street Normal School are defined as:

  • the skills, thinking and behaviour 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 successful learning that links motivation, engagement, achievement, self-belief and confidence.

 

Why are Strength-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. We believe that confidence about who they are and what they can achieve will help them become happy, successful and flourishing individuals. This is what some of our children say:

“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 strength-based learning. Comments from teachers have included:

"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.”

Parents have also commented on our strengths-based approaches:

"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"