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Strengths-Based Education FAQ

What is Strengths-Based Education?

The HCPSS has been working closely with Gallup Inc, to design and implement a strengths-based approach to engaging and motivating students and staff. This approach has begun with staff and student engagement polls to determine baseline levels of engagement. The results of these polls will be shared with the HCPSS community in April. However, aligned with the school system’s commitment to continuous improvement, the HCPSS acknowledges that growth in this area will remain a priority, regardless of the specific baseline levels identified.

In order to develop the strengths of both students and staff, one needs to begin by identifying each person’s strengths. Educators are not always aware of their own strengths, the strengths of their co-workers, or the strengths of the students with whom they work. To identify the strengths of administrators, the HCPSS has already begun to use the Gallup StrengthsFinder with its principals. Teachers in the six elementary schools that will implement the strengths focus during the 2014-15 school year will also take Gallup’s StrengthsFinder. Fifth grade students in these schools will complete the Gallup StrengthsExplorer to identify their strengths. For younger students, instructional staff will engage in a strengths identification process. In this process, teachers and students work together to identify and discuss possible areas of strength for each student.

Once student strengths are identified, the students then establish goals and objectives for academic achievement and growth. With teacher assistance, students will track progress towards these goals and objectives, with an emphasis on the importance of student perseverance, and celebrate growth. Through this process, students build internal motivation, take ownership of their learning, and nurture their endurance and self-efficacy.

Why is Strengths-Based Education important?

Conscious effort is needed to develop strengths. Consciously growing one’s strengths is a reflection of having what Carol Dweck refers to as a growth mindset. The growth mindset focuses on hard work to acquire new skills and knowledge and grow one’s intelligences (talents) into long-lasting strengths, which in turn, are associated with better motivation, higher grades, and improved test scores. As with strengths building, the nurturing of growth mindsets in both students and staff is an effort which requires the support of all stakeholders. Administrators and teachers collaborate to reinforce the belief that all students can learn and succeed, to ensure adults hold high expectation for all students, and strengthen the practices that enable teachers to help all students succeed.

What research supports focusing on developing strengths and a growth mindset in students?

The work of Gallup researchers (Gordon, 2013; Rath, 2007) indicates that all human beings have natural talents that can be developed into strengths. People working within their areas of strengths are six times more likely to be be engaged in what they are doing. Gallup’s research (Lopez, 2011) has shown that greater student engagement is positively correlated with higher student achievement.

The research of Carol Dweck (Dweck, 2006) indicates that students have one of two mindsets related to how they think about intelligence, personality, and other human qualities. In a fixed mindset, students believe that these qualities are basically fixed at birth and do not change substantially over time. In a growth mindset, students believe that intelligence and other qualities are cultivated and developed over time and change substantially over the course of a lifetime. Students persevere and succeed in school when they have a strengths and growth-focused academic mindset. The academic mindset includes the following beliefs:

  • I belong in this academic community.
  • I can succeed at this.
  • My ability and competence grow with my effort.
  • This work has value for me.

How will Strengths-Based Education fit into the current curriculum?

Beginning-of-the-year instruction will include strengths-based lessons in grade prekindergarten to grade 5, as well as additional lessons embedded in content instruction throughout the year.

How are strengths identified and developed?

Strengths development involves a five-step process:

  • Identifying and measuring talents and strengths using either a formal survey or a strengths identification process
  • Personalizing instruction based on each student’s strengths as well as his or her needs
  • Building a partnership among students, staff, families, and community members that will support and reinforce strengths-building in a variety of contexts
  • Applying strengths-based approaches in and out of school
  • Intentionally develop strengths through novel experience and focused practice
    (Lopez and Louis, 2009).

What are some specific strategies parents can use to support the development of strengths and a growth-focused academic mindset in their children?

During summer curriculum writing, HCPSS will develop some parent resources that will support interested parents in developing and supporting a strengths and growth-focused academic mindset in their children.

Learn more about strengths and engagement →