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Year 12 students explore character strengths

Regulus // Issue 2 // August 2023

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Head of Well-being, Kerry Larby, with Year 12 students, Savannah Caulfield, Abby Baxter, Noah Smith and William Carrodus.A character strengths and leadership programme for Year 12 students has been trialled this year during Senior College options to encourage students to think more deeply about their signature character strengths, says Head of Well-being, Kerry Larby. “Our goal is to help our students develop self-awareness and leave St Andrew’s with the ability to talk about what they specifically bring to the world through using their character strengths, which are core to who they are. Head of Senior College, John Ruge, believes this process will be of use to our students when applying for leadership roles, employment, and tertiary study options.”

The programme follows on from research undertaken by Kerry during her Masters thesis, which focused on how a character strength development programme could impact student leaders’ self-concept and understanding of their leadership role. Findings from the case study in her thesis indicated that the VIA Classification for Character was an effective tool in developing self-awareness and an increased appreciation for diversity, she says. “Using the VIA vocabulary provided students with an entry point to think in a more nuanced and broadened way about who they are and what they can bring to leadership. Research participants also felt that collaborating with others broadened their understanding of the diverse strengths they can contribute to the leadership process and made them understand and appreciate the contribution of their peers more.”

The series of lessons created for the Senior College options programme takes students through a process where they identify and explore their strengths using the VIA Classification for Character and Virtues. “Students begin by learning about the scientific background of the VIA Classification and considering the diverse strengths people use to influence others in a positive way. The students then reconnected with and reflected on their own five signature strengths, which were identified when they were in the Middle School,” says Kerry.

Rubrics have been created for each of the 24 VIA character strengths which encourage students to think critically and explore more deeply how they apply their strengths to the world. “Students use the rubrics to create a mind-map that details how they use their five strengths to make a difference to the world they live in. Some groups have used this information to consider how they would fill out an application form by writing a personal statement using their strengths.”

Engagement in the programme has been positive and students have enjoyed the time to think about themselves in a more in-depth way. “They said the VIA vocabulary provides words for what they intuitively know about themselves and is a useful framework to help them navigate the transition beyond school. It has been pleasing to see the extent that our students can reflect on themselves more deeply and insightfully now they are in the Senior College.”
Kerry believes students’ knowledge and self-awareness is also gained through their participation and contribution in the many opportunities that St Andrew’s College offers during their time at school.

Key members of staff are currently working together and responding to student feedback, to consider how this programme can be embedded in the Year 12 curriculum in 2023, so all students in the year group can work through the process.

Year 12 students explore character strengths through a programme for self-awareness and leadership, paving the way for future endeavours.