Thursday, 4 October 2012

Positive Psychology in Schools and The Australian Curriculum Stuart High School, Whyalla South Australia

The REBE (Rational Emotive Behaviour Education) brand of psychology says that to negotiate the road ahead requires competencies that will help students build resilience. The Australian Curriculum outlines seven general competencies that are promoted in schools. Personal and Social Competence is promoted through the whole school application of Rational Emotive Behaviour Education.

REBE is a psychotherapy-based system of behaviour education based on the ABC Theory of Emotional (and behavioural) Disturbance. It teaches that the events in our lives PLUS our constructed beliefs (personal philosophies about self, others and life) drive our behavioural and emotional responses to situations (A+B=C). It is not the event itself alone that causes emotional and behavioural disturbance. (A=C).

This is not a ‘think positive and everything will be OK’ approach, it is not the vacuous ‘there, there all will be OK’ mantra of the ‘warm fuzzy’ movement of the 80’s and 90’s.

Each day students whither in the face of challenge and discomfort, withdrawing from activities they don't like or find 'boring.' 'I don't want to do sport because it's boring' or 'maths is boring and makes me mad.' Each time a student withdraws from challenges her ability to bounce back in adversity diminishes. They construct the view that 'in life I shouldn't have to do things that are hard and boring and it's not fair when things don't go my way as they must do and I just can't stand it.' This is the motto of the helpless, those who have not been held to account when the going got tough. And the result? Young people are not ready for the real world where they will be held to account and their livelihood will depend on it. Will they then default to the care of their families, the government to look after them in a world that is 'unfair and boring' and which makes them so 'angry/anxious/depressed?'

REBE challenges students to consider if their anger/boredom/anxiety/depression is indeed ‘made’ by other people and events. It explains what constructivism is and how our constructed beliefs drive how we feel and behave. If a student believes that a challenge is not a catastrophe and she can stand discomfort she is more likely to hang in there when the going gets tough. If she believes on the other hand that she ‘shouldn’t be inconvenienced by difficulty and that she can’t stand tough situations' she is more likely to give up and feel angry.

REBE teaches students how to take control of their emotions and behaviours so that they continue to work towards their goals in life. It teaches them that life is not a cakewalk and that things won’t always go their way but to hang tough when the going gets tough.

The staff at Stuart High School in Whyalla, South Australia teach REBE across all curriculum areas and the benefits are many:

  •        Improved attendance
  •        Improved mental health outcomes
  •        Students more engaged in learning
  •        More confident, prepared to take risks

The Albert Ellis Professional Learning Centre was established this year to support other schools and teachers learn about REBE. It is the Centre’s aim to promote positive psychology in schools through the Rational Emotive Behaviour Education Curriculum. It consistently challenges the belief that the world is unfair, that it 'makes' us angry and sad and that we can't handle tough situations.

As Dr Albert Ellis once said: 'The universe doesn’t care about you, it’s not for or against you, it just doesn’t give a shit.

More information:
Twitter: (@REBTOZ)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your response to my article though I consider it to be ill-considered and short on objectivity. I have reread my article and I cannot find any part where I claim that it is teacher’s work to teach students that they should, without question tolerate inappropriate learning content delivered by ‘poor’ teachers. I also cannot find any inference or suggestion that this should be so. I can find throughout the article reference to the importance for students to develop the capacity to hang in there when the going gets tough, to ride out the inevitable turbulent times they will meet on their journey through life. I believe it is unreasonable to suggest that student outcomes are entirely attributed to teacher competence. It is unfair to do this, as there are students who cannot access the curriculum for a variety of reasons despite the enthusiasm, energy, dedication and commitment of the teacher.

    I don't think learning is about teaching students to tolerate the mundane and the meaningless. This would be an insult to all learners and I would encourage students to question what they are learning and why. I am concerned that many students have already decided that they are hopeless and that success is not for them. It is important that they have enthusiastic teachers who are well prepared and who prepare engaging and stimulating learning opportunities but there are those students who cannot engage because of psychological blockers (irrational philosophical beliefs about themselves, others and the world) that they have constructed over time. It is important that these students understand that as constructivists that they have learned to be helpless and hopeless and that they can unlearn this. For these students engaging, relevant and stimulating teaching/learning is not enough. We all have to understand I believe that in life some (many?) things we have to deal with are tough and challenging. When a child says (believes) that this (maths, spaghetti, school, life, me) is boring/bad and ‘I can't do it’ stops them from trying/engaging. It's not just what happens 'to' them its a lot to do with how they think about things and I am interested in helping students understand why they believe as they do, how they have constructed their unhelpful beliefs and what they can do about it. I agree that an engaging and stimulating curriculum is essential to positive learning and having an enthusiastic teacher who also loves learning is essential in my view. Better that students who meet with challenges that are 'boring' believe they can handle tough stuff and can engage with the problem rather than believing/thinking/accepting that they are hopeless and can't do it.

    I invite you to revisit my article, read it in its entirety and reconsider what you have written and why. You may have attracted some short-term attention by responding as you have but educators who are reasoned and have a basic understanding of constructivist theory will understand what my post is really about.