Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Degree Granting Department
Psychological and Social Foundations
Shannon Suldo, Ph.D.
John Ferron, Ph.D.
Jose Castillo, Ph.D.
Sarah Kiefer, Ph.D.
Danielle Dennis, Ph.D.
classwide, elementary, life satisfaction, positive psychology, subjective well-being, teacher well-being
Teaching is considered one of the most challenging professions, often associated with high levels of occupational stress and job turnover that perpetuates additional negative outcomes including depleted funding for school districts, poor education quality, and reduced student academic performance. Research shows that teachers are an integral part of the classroom with the power to positively influence students’ perceived classroom support and emotional competence (Jennings & Greenberg, 2009). Positive psychology has facilitated school-based initiatives that foster feelings of subjective well-being (happiness) through the implementation of brief, scripted activities (i.e., Positive Psychology Interventions; PPIs) that reflect the thoughts and behaviors of happy people (Layous & Lyubomirsky, 2014). Studies have demonstrated the positive impact of positive psychology interventions (PPIs) for adults (Bolier et al., 2013) and youth including a multicomponent, multitarget PPI (i.e., Well-Being Promotion Program) that improves students’ well-being (Suldo et al., 2015). McCullough’s (2015) investigation of the efficacy of a strengths-based intervention (Utilizing Signature Strengths in New Ways) on elementary teachers’ well-being revealed promising effects on teacher reduced emotional distress, increased life and work satisfaction, and SWB. This study examined the additive impact of teachers’ participation in the brief strengths-based teacher intervention (SBTI) on elementary students’ social and emotional outcomes, as reflected in levels of SWB, psychopathology, as well as classroom engagement and relationships among teachers and students. Concurrently, these elementary students took part in a Classwide Well-Being Promotion Program, a 10-week intervention targeting a variety of positive psychological constructs (i.e., positive relationships, gratitude, kindness, character strengths, hope) with additional parent and teacher components. A total of 7 classes (4 fifth grade; 3 fourth grade) within one large elementary school received the classwide, multicomponent student intervention in spring 2016, while 3 teachers were randomly assigned to participate in the SBTI concurrently. Follow-up analyses examined group differences on the variables of interest for the combined intervention (WBPP + SBTI) group, relative to classes of students engaged in the classwide-only intervention (WBPP). At immediate post-intervention, results revealed that classes of students participating in the combined intervention group did not demonstrate significantly improved student-reported life satisfaction, positive or negative affect, classmate or teacher support, emotional or behavioral engagement, nor teacher-reported relationship satisfaction, instrumental help, and emotional or behavioral engagement relative to the classwide-only intervention group. Additionally, students in classes within the combined approach reported statistically higher levels of negative affect and reduced levels of perceived teacher support relative to a classwide-only intervention group at immediate post-intervention, although the unexpected impact on negative affect appeared driven by data from students in the class led by a teacher with questionable fidelity of intervention implementation. Results of this study do not provide support that targeting teachers’ well-being through the SBTI may promote superior student outcomes for students concurrently engaged in the WBPP. Nonetheless, high levels of treatment acceptability reported by teachers and students participating in the combined intervention, as well as limitations to the study design, justify further investigation on the impact of targeting both teacher and student well-being in the context of positive psychological practices.
Scholar Commons Citation
Headley, Mollie Mccullough, "Improving Elementary Students’ Complete Mental Health: Examining the Added Impact of a Teacher-Focused Strengths-Based Intervention" (2018). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.