Which character strengths lead to good achievement?

An article previously published in Frontiers in Psychology by Lisa Wagner and Willibald Ruch reported on two studies conducted with 179 primary pupils from three schools, and 199 secondary pupils from four schools in Switzerland to examine whether character strengths are important to school success for primary and secondary pupils.

The authors measured character strengths by the Value in Action Inventory of Strengths for Youth (VIA-Youth,) and positive classroom behaviours with the Classroom Behavior Rating Scale (CBRS), which cover positive achievement-related behaviour and positive social behaviour. For primary pupils, achievement was obtained by teacher ratings; for secondary pupils, the schools’ administration offices provided their grades. The findings showed that:

  • Perseverance, prudence, hope, social intelligence and self-regulation were positively related to positive classroom behaviour for both primary and secondary pupils.
  • Perseverance, prudence, hope, love of learning, perspective, zest and gratitude were positively related to school achievement for both primary and secondary pupils.
  • Perseverance, prudence and hope were associated with both positive classroom behaviour and school achievement across primary and secondary sectors.

According to the authors, these findings indicate there is a rather distinct set of strengths most relevant in schools. The authors also suggest that further research could explore whether teachers and pupils value these strengths.

Source: Good character at school: positive classroom behavior mediates the link between character strengths and school achievement (May 2015), Frontiers in Psychology, Volume 6    

The positive influence of classmates’ behaviour

Prior research has indicated that an individual adolescent’s behaviour is influenced by the behaviour of his or her classmates. But while most studies have focused on negative peer influence, a study published in Journal of Adolescence investigates whether individual anti-social behaviours in adolescents can potentially be reduced by promoting pro-social behaviour at the classroom level.

In order to determine whether classmates’ pro-social behaviour is related to lower anti-social behaviour of pupils, Verena Hofmann and Christoph Michael Müller conducted a longitudinal study among lower secondary school pupils in Switzerland (mean age = 13.8 years). The sample included 55 classrooms in eight schools, and the researchers analysed data collected at the end of Grade 7, Grade 8, and Grade 9 (Years 7–10). Participants completed self-reported assessments on pro-social behaviour, anti-social behaviour, and anti-social attitudes. Classmates’ pro- and anti-social behaviour for each pupil was calculated by averaging all pupils’ scores in a class, excluding the pupils’ own score.

While children generally developed more anti-social behaviour over time, particularly those who had higher initial levels of anti-social behaviour, results indicated that more pro-social behaviour among classmates predicted lower levels of individual anti-social behaviour and anti-social attitudes in the future.

Source: Avoiding antisocial behavior among adolescents: The positive influence of classmates’ prosocial behavior (October 2018), Journal of Adolescence, volume 68