Understanding Factors Affecting Positive Education in Practice: an Australian Case Study


Positive education is characterized by applying positive psychology interventions (PPIs) within educational settings. Increasing evidence suggests that PPIs can help increase well-being and reduce depressive symptoms in general and clinical populations. However, there is less evidence that PPIs are similarly effective within complex school environments. The study aimed to (1) examine the effectiveness of an evidence-informed positive education pilot program (PEPP) delivered within an Australian public high school and (2) use an implementation science framework to explore factors impacting the planning, delivery, practice, and success of program activities. The study used a non-randomized waitlist design (n = 143), and provider (teacher), recipient (student), intervention (PEPP), organizational (school), and contextual factors were systematically explored through a mixed methods approach. Findings suggest the PEPP was not related to increases in well-being or resilience, but may have buffered students from declining mental health during the school year. Recipient outlook, organizational support, stakeholder input, and provider enthusiasm and understanding were all thought to impact program outcomes. By exploring the practice of a positive education intervention from an implementation perspective, challenges and opportunities of positive education in the real world can be identified.

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  1. 1.

    ICSEA provides an indication of the level of educational advantage of the school’s student population relative to those of other schools using the geographical location of the school, the proportion of indigenous students catered for, and the occupation and level of education of students’ parents. In 2016, scores ranged from 125 for a school in remote Arnhem Land to 1308 for an independent inner-city Sydney school. The Australian average is 1000 (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority 2012).

  2. 2.

    “Pastoral care” is a term used in education in Australia describing daily or weekly class time, often in a homeroom setting, devoted the objective of supporting the welfare, well-being, and personal development of students.


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We would like to sincerely thank Blackwood High School staff and students for their role in this research. It was the enthusiasm and cooperation of school staff and students that allowed this research to be successful.

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Correspondence to Amber J. Halliday.

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The first author of this study was supported through an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship. This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Table A4 Exploration of implementation factors
Table A5 Depression and anxiety for the duration of the study

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Halliday, A.J., Kern, M.L., Garrett, D.K. et al. Understanding Factors Affecting Positive Education in Practice: an Australian Case Study. Contemp School Psychol (2019).

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  • Adolescents
  • Positive education
  • Positive psychology interventions
  • Student well-being
  • Implementation science