Wisdom & Knowledge
Cognitive strengths that help us to learn, including curiosity, creativity, open-mindedness, love of learning and wisdom.
Emotional strengths that help us to overcome difficulty and achieve success, including bravery, perseverence, honesty, energy & enthusiasm.
Interpersonal strengths that help us to make friends and get along with others, including love, kindness and social intelligence.
Strengths that help us to live as part of a community, including teamwork, fairness and leadership.
Strengths that help us to moderate our impulses, including forgiveness, modesty, caution, self-control.
Meaning & Purpose
Strengths that give our lives meaning, including appreciation of beauty and excellence, thankfulness, hope, humour & playfulness and spirituality.
is based on the positive psychology research of Dr Christopher Peterson and Dr Martin Seligman.
The classification of character strengths was a three year project carried out by a group of social scientists led by Drs Peterson and Seligman between 2001 and 2004. The aim of the classification of character strengths was to identify positive human traits that have been valued cross-culturally and throughout history, by a thorough analysis of the world’s major religious writings, including the Bible, the Koran and the Bhagavad Gita, as well as studies of the major philosophies.
The resulting classification of 24 character strengths are organised under 6 broad virtues that consistently emerge across history and culture:
- Wisdom & Knowledge: Cognitive strengths that facilitate learning (curiosity, creativity, open-mindedness, love of learning, perspective).
- Courage: Emotional strengths that help us to overcome difficulty and achieve success (bravery, perseverance, honesty, energy and enthusiasm).
- Humanity: Interpersonal strengths that help us to make friends and get along with others (love, kindness, social intelligence).
- Citizenship [justice]: Strengths that help us to live as part of a community (teamwork, fairness, leadership).
- Self-control [temperance]: Strengths that help us to moderate unhelpful impulses (forgiveness, modesty, caution, self-control).
- Meaning & Purpose [transcendence]: Strengths that give our lives meaning (appreciation of beauty and excellence, thankfulness, hope, humour and playfulness, spirituality)
Evidence base in schools
- Positive psychology programmes involving assessment and intervention to develop the character strengths of curiosity, love of learning, and creativity, lead to improved student school skills and greater student enjoyment and engagement (Seligman et. al. 2009).
- Perseverance and temperance strengths, such as modesty, caution and self-control are predictors of academic achievement (Peterson & Park, 2009).
- Self-regulation is twice as good as IQ as a predictor of high school grades (Duckworth & Seligman, 2005).
- Effective teachers, judged by the improvement of their pupils on standardised tests, show high levels of social intelligence, zest and humour in a longitudinal test (Park & Peterson, 2009).
- The most important character strengths for wellbeing and happiness are gratitude, optimism, enthusiasm, curiosity and love (Park & Peterson, 2008).
- Learning optimism skills between the ages of 10 and 12 halves the rate of depression as school children go through puberty (Gillham & Reivich, 1999).
- Duckworth, A.L., and Seligman, M.E.P. (2005). Self-discipline outdoes IQ in predicting academic performance of adolescents. Psychological Science, 16: 939–44.
- Gillham, J.E., & Reivich, K.J. (1999). Prevention of depressive symptoms in school children: A research update. Psychological Science, 10: 461-462.
- Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2008). The cultivation of character strengths. In M. Ferrari & G. Poworowski (Eds.), Teaching for wisdom (pp. 57-75). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
- Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2009). Strengths of character in schools. In R. Gilman, E. S. Huebner, & M. J. Furlong (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology in schools (pp. 65-76). New York: Routledge.
- Peterson, C., & Park, N. (2009). Classifying and measuring strengths of character. In S. J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (Eds.), Oxford handbook of positive psychology, 2nd edition (pp. 25-33). New York: Oxford University Press.
- Seligman, M. E. P., Ernst, R. M., Gillham, J., Reivich, K., & Linkins, M. (2009). Positive education: Positive psychology and classroom interventions. Oxford Review of Education, 35(3), 293-311.