Empowering Our Students: Strength Based Approaches and Self Direction


A Strength-Based Approach is a positive psychology perspective that emphasizes the strengths,capabilities and resources of a youth. A Strength-Based paradigm requires educators to adjust our language and how we communicate with our students. Rather than focusing on “PROBLEMS students are encouraged to view challenges as opportunities to explore, take risks and discover solutions Our role should be to Guide not Direct students, so that they can develop their capacity to be self sufficent.

“It is important to understand the strength-based approach is not about denying that youth do experience problems and challenges and that these issues do need to be addressed. But, when the problem becomes the starting point with an emphasis on what a young person lacks, a dependency is created on the helping profession with lowered positive expectations and blocked opportunities for change “ (www.resiliencyinitiatives.ca).
Strength-Based and Deficit-Based Concepts: A Comparison (Hammond 2011)
Principles of Strength-based Approaches
1)RELATIONSHIPS are key- positive change can only occur in the context of authentic relationshiops

 2)Every student has potential- Think: “I believe and I WILL see” rather than “Prove it”

 3)Start with what students can already do. Small successes lead to building blocks for growth.

 4) Confidence to take risks grows when students are invited to start with what they already know.

 5) Believe that success is inevitable, students are intrinsically good and do want to learn

 6)  It is the STUDENT’S STORY (perception) which is most important, not the adults.

 7) Be mindful that the language we use demonstrates value –  reframe  – “Did you not hear what I told the other students?” to “It looks like you tried doing this exercise another way let’s see how it worked for you.”;

 8) “It takes a village to raise a child”- different adults can provide for different needs…. No one needs to be the sole expert.

9) Sustainable change is a cumulative process, not a destination.

Self –Directed Learning Forms A Natural Partnership with Strengths Based Approaches
Strength Based Approaches empower students to take risks and explore. One way to facilitate this type of learning to allow students opportunities to become Self- Directed Learners. When schools allow students to begin to create their own assignments they not only build content capacity, but also learning capacity


This approach may be applied in many ways including:

The Inside-Out School: A 21st Century Learning Model


2 thoughts on “Empowering Our Students: Strength Based Approaches and Self Direction

  1. An excellent post1. I will reshare to those in my offline community. Maybe if they hear it enough, it will start to sink in and bypass the outmoded default mode of teaching and viewing students.

    • Thank you so much for your support Deborah. As a school counsellor I have at times felt like I had to rationalize my expense to my school community. However, the benefits of EQ and SI supports far out weigh the costs.

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