Strengths Based Character Education

Milton Keynes Primary PRU has a strengths based approach to education.  We believe that children have, or can develop, the strengths, resources and ability to move forwards positively and be successful. 

This perspective replaces an emphasis on problems, vulnerabilities, and deficits. Strength-based approaches are developmental and process-oriented. It identifies and reveals a child’s internal strengths and resources as they emerge in response to specific life challenges. 

With our strength-based mindset, we engage and interact in ways that invite a curious exploration of “what can be” based upon a clear set of values and attitudes. 

Our School embraces the following culture;

  • We understand that a strength-based approach is a philosophy based on values and guiding principles for working with all students to bring about change.
  • We engage children in relational ways that demonstrate positive attitudes about their dignity, capacities, rights, uniqueness and commonalities.
  • We create conditions and unique opportunities that enable teachers and children to identify, value and draw upon their strengths and capacity in ways that create meaningful and sustainable progression towards change and goals.
  • We provide and use resources in ways that complements a child’s existing strengths and resources as opposed to compensating for perceived deficits. It is a holistic approach of combining outstanding teaching and learning with supporting the student’s well-being.
  • We acknowledge and address power imbalances between children and adults (e.g., Not – “I’m the teacher and your role is to respect me and learn from me.”; Rather – “Being at school is an opportunity for us to learn and I’m looking forward to getting to know you in a way that I can make learning meaningful and a positive experience for you”).
  • We seek to identify and address social, personal, cultural and structural constraints to a child’s desired goals, growth and self-determination.

Our approach highlights positive, healthy outcomes (as opposed to negative) like competence (academic, social, vocational skills), self-confidence, connectedness (healthy relationship to family, friends and commu­nity), character (integrity, moral commitment),

caring and compassion. We believe if children experience success, they will prefer the benefits of success to the natural consequences of non-constructive coping. 

Our strength-based approach is not just a model for practice. It is an approach to practice based upon a philosophy and depends on shared values, attitudes and professional integrity. 

It is not only a philosophy of practice but also a philosophy for life, because it is based upon attitudes and values reflecting a deep respect for the worth and value of others – their intrinsic worth, potential and human rights. 

 

The following Principles serve as the guiding foundation to our strength-based character education: 

1

An absolute belief that every child has potential. It is their unique strengths and capabilities that will determine their evolving story as well as define who they are - not what they’re not (not, I will believe when I see – rather, I believe and I will see). 

2

What we focus on becomes a child’s reality. Focus on what a child can do as the starting point, not what they cannot. See challenges as opportunities to explore, not something to avoid. Start with small success and build upon them to create a foundation of hope and optimism. 

3

Be mindful that the language we use creates a reality – both for the educators and the children (e.g., Saying – “It looks like you tried doing this exercise another way let’s see how it worked for you.”; As opposed to saying – “Did you not hear what I told the other students?”). 

4

Belief that change is inevitable and all children can and will be successful. All Children have the urge to succeed, to explore the world around them and to contribute to others and their communities. 

5

Positive change occurs in the context of authentic relationships. Children need to know that all school staff care and will be there unconditionally for them. 

6

What a student thinks about themselves and their reality is primary – it is their story. Therefore, educators must value and start the change process with what is important to the child. It’s the child’s story that’s important, not the expert. 

7

Children have more confidence and comfort to journey to the future (or to the unknown) when they are invited to start with what they already know. 

8

Capacity building is a process and a goal. Effective and sustainable change is a dynamic process one supports in cumulative ways that leads the children to write the next chapters of their story in meaningful ways.

9

It is important to value differences and the essential need to collaborate. Transformational change is a collaborative, inclusive and participatory process – “It takes a village to raise a child”