Speaker Interview with Diane Dreher on Positive Education
The Positive Psychology Centre is hosting its last Positive Education webinar on Thursday 14th July. To bring this series to a close, Reece Coker and Diane Dreher will be discussing case studies and examples from research on how to overcome barriers to Positive Education in the classroom. They will present common obstacles alongside possibilities to activate and engage in positive change-oriented processes. The guest entry below is a short interview with Diane Dreher, PhD, PCC, a Positive Psychology Coach, teacher, researcher, and author who has worked in higher education for over 30 years.
For more information on the Positive Education webinar series and how to book please see here.
1) Would you give us a brief introduction about yourself and what brought you to Positive Psychology?
My interest in what is now Positive Psychology began long ago when I studied spiritual development in Renaissance literature for my PhD in English at UCLA. I was also inspired by Viktor Frankl’s and Abraham Maslow’s affirmation of our human potential. I began meditating, studied the Tao Te Ching, and later wrote three books on Taoism and personal growth.
When the Positive Psychology movement began, I returned to school for my Master’s degree in Counseling and began doing research in Positive Psychology. I’m now a Positive Psychology Coach. Continuing my writing and research, I blog for Psychology Today and am discovering more about Positive Psychology each day, inspired by the work of the Positive Psychology Guild.
2) Why is there a need for Positive Psychology in a learning environment?
Positive Psychology supports learning in so many ways. In order to learn anything, we need to feel safe and supported. As research at Stanford University reveals, we need a nurturing yet challenging environment in our classrooms that engages students and makes them feel they belong (Pope & Miles, 2022). We need positive connections with others that Barbara Fredrickson’s research shows can “broaden and build” our ability to learn (Fredrickson, 2001; 2013). We need to discover our strengths and use them to meet new challenges (Peterson & Seligman, 2008). And finally, we need to develop what Carol Dweck (2007) has called a “growth mindset,” believing in our ability to learn, realizing that we can become better at any task with consistent practice.
3) This webinar series concentrates on Positive Education for children? Some of our members are particularly interested in Positive Education for adults; which insights could you offer in this area?
Regardless of our age or stage in life, we all need engagement and belonging in order to flourish. In my own experience, when teaching adults, I focus on cultivating a safe, supportive environment with belonging and engagement, offering students opportunities to discover and develop their strengths. For adult students, I make classes more interactive, enabling them to share their life experiences and expertise. I also ask for and respond to their advice about assignments and curriculum so that the course becomes truly meaningful to them.
Dweck, C.S. (2007). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.New York, NY: Random House.
Fredrickson, B. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology. American Psychologist, 56, 218-226.
Fredrickson, B. (2013). Love 2.0: How our supreme emotion affects everything we feel, think, do, and become.New York, NY: Hudson Street Press
Peterson, C. & Seligman, M.E.P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Pope, D.& Miles, S. (2022 February). A feeling of belonging in school goes hand in hand with students’ engagement in learning. Phi Delta Kappan, 103 (5), 9-12.
Diane Dreher (USA)
Diane Dreher, PhD, PCC, is a Positive Psychology Coach, teacher, researcher, and author who has worked in higher education for over 30 years. After completing her PhD in Renaissance English literature at UCLA, Diane began teaching at Santa Clara University, where received the Distinguished Teaching award in 2019. Her publications include the bestselling Tao of Inner Peace, Tao of Personal Leadership, Tao of Womanhood, Inner Gardening, and Your Personal Renaissance as well as scholarly books and articles on literature, Positive Psychology, and hope. Seeking new frontiers in learning, she went on to complete a Master’s degree in Counseling and became a Professional Certified Coach (PCC), with the International Coaching Federation and a HeartMath Clinical Practitioner. Her research interests explore the convergence of positive psychology with Eastern philosophy, leadership, mindfulness, and hope. In addition to lecturing in the Positive Psychology Academy, she is Associate Director of the Applied Spirituality Institute at Santa Clara University, maintains an international coaching practice, is an advisor for the Hopeful Mindsets Project, and is writing a book on hope.