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Positive Psychology’s Influence on the Self Essay

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Updated: Aug 16th, 2022

Introduction

Positive psychology is a concept that refers to a variety of strategies that encourage people to focus on their selves. In education, it implies greater attention to students’ emotions, attitudes, and ideas, which is based on the basics of humanistic psychology. The paramount goal of positive psychology is to ensure the optimal functioning of people and advance their well-being (Kaiser et al., 2020). It also posits on the assumption that only students who are ready to receive assistance are more likely to succeed with their academic performance. It is important to understand the impact of positive psychology on students’ self to clarify the current challenges and opportunities for applying positive thinking in education.

  • Problem: The current conceptions of self in education cannot meet the needs and preferences of students, which limit their potential to develop as individuals. Students note that education is not interesting, while teachers pay attention to curricula instead of students’ unique selves.
  • Method: A critical literature review is used to discuss the above problem and make conclusions about the future of educational psychology.
  • Thesis: Positive psychology improves student performance since it focuses on their identity, mind, self-regulation, and enthusiasm about learning.
Self Definition Processes

Historical Timeline

  • the late medieval period – the unit of a human life was recognized;
  • 1500-1800 – the distinction between the outer and inner selves;
  • Puritan society – self-consciousness and self-deception concerns;
  • the Victorian era and the 20th century – problems revealed are self-knowing, self-creation, self-understanding, and the relation of self to society;
  • early 20th century – compete self-knowledge denial and devaluation of self;
  • Recent 20th century – uniqueness of personality and self-exploration are prioritized; there is a need to recognize one’s potential (Baumeister, 1987).

Beginning with the Christian values and morals, the notion of fulfillment is closely associated with one’s individuality: “people are not people anymore, they are individuals” (Bekerman, & Zembylas, 2018a, p. 42)

Discussion

Inadequate perception of self in educational psychology

The humanistic ideas of psychologists of the 20th century removed the concept of personhood from its social, cultural, and historical traditions. Instead, political and moral values were assigned a top priority, which gave the impulse to self-management and self-enhancement theories. Martin (2004) states that they cannot meet the needs of students since they are expected to function as effective citizens only. Little attention is paid to promoting the participation in socio-cultural contexts, and it limits the development of students. Therefore, there is a need to create a new understanding of the self, focusing on specific sets of cultural norms, traditions, and other components of personhood.

Similar ideas are expressed by Vygotsky (1980), who claims that the development of personhood begins with the physical birth of a person and continues in terms of his or her developmental path. The views of Vygotsky (1980) and Martin (2004) are contrary to the majority of psychological approaches that pay more attention to the political environment compared to linguistic and relational contexts. Namely, the mentioned authors suggest that even infants design their selves by internalizing the socio-cultural aspects of their families. Accordingly, children come to schools and already have their defined selves, which should be taken into account by teachers, if they want to contribute to their further growth as personalities.

Empty self

Cushman (1990) also studies the historical perspective and states that the self is empty, meaning that it is filled with consumer products, food, and celebrities. Beginning with the post-World War II period, many people are trapped by these issues, which is translated to their children and their education. In terms of positive psychology, counselors for adults, and teachers for children should make an effort to fulfill their selves with moral and family values, equipping with the tools to overcome emptiness (Cushman, 1990). In a consumerism-driven modern world, this problem seems to be especially critical as the content of the self depends on the needs and expectations of a person. Consequently, the nation’s future is also impacted by the values children and then adults practice in their lives.

Techne of psychology

The governing through rationality and autonomy led to the emergence of ideas about the techne of psychology that is identified by Rose (1998) as the ways to clarify characteristic features of such complex organizations as education, reform, virtue, and so on. The ways to build effective education depends on combining decisions, people, devices, and other components. The role of psychology is to find the applications of various theories and strategies to improve the performance of the mentioned institutional organizations. For example, a test is a device that can provide the calculable effectiveness of a student to distinguish him or her from others. This device visualizes the academic performance by means of curves and figures. However, without a positive approach, the calculations cannot be properly interpreted.

Doubtful research

Another impact of positive psychology on the formation of the self is related to the practical implications. Many theories of psychology lack a scientific approach to student development. According to Egan (2005), the majority of research studies translate the following idea: focus on what a student already knows and extend this knowledge. However, such claims seem to be one-sided and failing to clarify what exactly this student needs. Such an approach is likely to lead to regress since the teacher always looks back instead of providing some opportunities for the future (Egan, 2005). From the view of positive psychology, students are considered as individuals who are eligible to make mistakes, and it is perceived as something inevitable and normal. More to the point, it is recognized that learning from mistakes is effective as it stimulates critical thinking. The reduced amount of novelty that is currently practiced in schools limits learners’ enthusiasm about the exploration of new ideas and topics.

Identity

The notion of identity allows for studying the categories of age, religion, ethnicity, race, occupation, and others, understanding the differences between people (Bekerman & Zembylas, 2018). In education, some teachers are likely to use these social identity categories to state that the members of one group have similar characteristics, such as African-Americans or children from low-income families. This view restricts the borders of groups, which is the expression of power relationships. The government can use it to unite people and strengthen their sense of belongingness to the nation. In schools, teachers can use this approach to unite students and assign certain groups with specific characteristics. However, it creates an abstract perception of identity, while it is important to shift to recognizing identity as a co-participant in a complex, social, and political environments (Bekerman & Zembylas, 2018b). In this case, positive psychology promotes an in-depth study of the self.

The self can be described by such epithets as authentic, hidden, material, and so on. For example, while speaking of a child, people often say that she or he has a hidden potential, and they use the “why” question to uncover it (Locke, 1975). However, little attention is paid to the “how” question that refers to the way of thinking and acting, failing to develop the authentic self and working with what is available.

Self

If taken from the positivist point of view, the concepts of identity and self are noted as studied by many studies. Bekerman and Zembylas (2018a) claim that it is important to ask the “why” questions to uncover the potential of student to the fullest extent. At the same time, “how” questions should not be underemphasized as they help in focusing on the process of exploration, making doing things more meaningful. This goes in line with the positivist psychology that sets importance on both the goal and the process of achieving it.

In their study, Kaiser et al. (2020) explored the impact of positive psychology on self-regulated learning. They found that it is critical for the academic success of students and serves as the construct for self-efficacy, optimism, self-esteem, and hope. The study of 1046 undergraduates showed a strong link between positive psychology and self-regulated learning. Accordingly, students with better self-regulation had greater motivation for learning and completed tasks more effectively.

Conclusions

Positive psychology is important for the establishment and development of the self. This approach of educational psychology ensures that students pay attention to the exploration of their inner and outer selves, with a focus on cultural, social, and political issues. The current education lacks the appeal to a student’s personality, which is caused by the emptiness of selves. Therefore, positive psychology techniques can be recommended to be used by teachers to help learners uncover their selves.

References

Baumeister, R. F. (1987). How the self became a problem: A psychological review of historical research. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52(1), 163-176.

Bekerman, Z., & Zembylas, M. (2018). Identity. In Psychologized language in education: Denaturalizing a regime of truth (pp. 57-66). Palgrave Macmillan.

Bekerman, Z., & Zembylas, M. (2018a). Individuate, divide and reign. In Psychologized language in education: Denaturalizing a regime of truth (pp. 41-49). Palgrave Macmillan.

Bekerman, Z., & Zembylas, M. (2018b). The self (intensive adjective or being) authentic, hiding or material? In Psychologized language in education: Denaturalizing a regime of truth (pp. 51-55). Palgrave Macmillan.

Brinkmann, S. (2010). Psychology as a moral science: Perspectives on normativity. Springer Science.

Cushman, P. (1990). Why the self is empty: Toward a historically situated psychology. American Psychologist, 45(5), 599-611.

Egan, K. (2005). Students’ development in theory and practice: The doubtful role of research. Harvard Educational Review, 75(1), 25-41.

Kaiser, V., Reppold, C. T., Hutz, C. S., & Almeida, L. S. (2020). Contributions of positive psychology in self-regulated learning: A study with Brazilian undergraduate students. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 1-8.

Locke, J. (1975).

Martin, J. (2004). The educational inadequacy of conceptions of self in educational psychology. Interchange, 35(2), 185-208.

Rose, N. (1998). Expertise and the techne of psychology. Inventing Our Selves: Psychology, Power, and Personhood, 81-100.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1980). Mind in society. Harvard University Press.

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