The BIG 5 psychological model of character traits is a framework that describes five basic dimensions of personality: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism . These traits can help us understand ourselves and others better.
As an elementary teacher, it is important to be aware of these traits and how they affect your students’ learning and behavior. Here are some practical examples for each of the 5 traits:
Openness: This trait reflects how curious, creative, and open-minded a person is. Students who are high in openness may enjoy exploring new topics, trying different activities, and expressing their imagination. You can encourage their openness by providing them with diverse and stimulating learning materials, such as books, games, art projects, etc.
Conscientiousness: This trait reflects how organized, responsible, and hard-working a person is. Students who are high in conscientiousness may be good at following rules, completing assignments, and paying attention in class. You can support their conscientiousness by setting clear expectations, giving feedback, and rewarding their efforts.
Extraversion: This trait reflects how sociable, outgoing, and energetic a person is. Students who are high in extraversion may enjoy interacting with others, participating in group activities, and sharing their opinions. You can foster their extraversion by creating opportunities for social learning, such as discussions, debates, presentations, etc.
Agreeableness: This trait reflects how friendly, cooperative, and compassionate a person is. Students who are high in agreeableness may be good at getting along with others, helping their peers, and showing empathy. You can enhance their agreeableness by promoting a positive classroom climate, teaching social skills, and modeling kindness.
Neuroticism: This trait reflects how anxious, nervous, and emotional a person is. Students who are high in neuroticism may be prone to stress, worry, and mood swings. You can reduce their neuroticism by providing them with emotional support, coping strategies, and reassurance.
By understanding the BIG 5 psychological model of character traits, you can tailor your teaching methods to suit your students’ needs and preferences.
When we are in a state of overwhelm, physiologically our bodies are experiencing a threat.
According to a 2020 survey of over 3,000 U.S. residents, conducted by the American Psychological Association, 60% of participants reported feeling overwhelmed.
What does it mean to be overwhelmed?
In their book, Immunity to Change, Harvard professors Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey discuss how the increase in complexity associated with modern life has left many of us feeling “in over our heads.” When this is the case, the complexity of our world has surpassed our “complexity of mind” or our ability to handle that level of complexity and be effective. This has nothing to do with how smart we are, but with how we make sense of the world and how we operate in it.
Our amygdala (a region of our brain that helps process emotions) sends a distress signal, putting the body into survival mode. Stress hormones are pumped out by our adrenal glands. Our heart rate and respiratory rates increase, while “non essential functions” (like digestion, for example) slow down. More
What is the impact?
The cognitive impact of feeling perpetually overwhelmed can range from mental slowness, forgetfulness, confusion, difficulty concentrating or thinking logically, to a racing mind or an impaired ability to problem solve. When we have too many demands on our thinking over an extended period of time, cognitive fatigue can also happen, making us more prone to distractions and our thinking less agile More
What are some strategies to mitigate feeling overwhelmed?
Reflect and articulate why you are feeling this way – identify the source or sources
Acknowledge the feelings and the unpleasant emotions…there’s no shame here.
Bring your distracted mind under your conscious control through mindfulness or any other intentional focusing startegy.
Deep breathing is shown to lower stress responses and cortisol production, reduce blood pressure and heart rate…turn off the emergency response systems
Clarify what is within your control and what is outside of your control and re-direct your attention accordingly
Take a forced break. I will literally walk outside to the sidewalk and back often while still on a call…it works! Feel the outside regularly
Do things that bring you joy and don’t punish yourself by not making them a priority
Connect with people
Get professional support and learn strategies to lever- it’s like investing in going to the gym to strengthen your body but for your emotional center.
Self compassion: Give yourself some grace. You’re having a hard time, and you are doing the best you can. Accept that what you’re doing right now to cope might be all that you can muster, and that’s ok. More
ChatGPT is a large language model trained by OpenAI based on the GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) architecture. It is capable of processing natural language and generating human-like responses to various prompts and questions.
It has been trained on a massive amount of text data, including books, articles, and websites, allowing it to sort of ‘understand’ and generate coherent, contextually relevant language.
ChatGPT is honest and admits it may occasionally generate incorrect information, produced harmful instructions or biased content and isn’t necessarily going to be useful in a quiz night with questions drawing from before 2021.
We shouldn’t be so hard to judge…our own super computer brain is a little bit untrustworthy too.
Our vision is limited and the rest is invented.
At any given moment, you are only seeing 10% of the 100% you think you are seeing. That means the other 90% of what appears in your visual field is being “generated” by your brain. Some of that ‘infill ‘coloring in’ is being drawn from memory, and some of it is being drawn from other sensory experiences.
Horse or a seal?
Our vision is laggy
We’re not seeing reality. Our vision runs around 100 milliseconds behind the real world…it would be impossible even for our remarkable brain to process all the visual data flowing inside us in real-time. Our brain predicts the what is happening before it happens. It tells us a story about where, for example, an object is heading, and this story becomes our reality. Magicians exploit these predictive assumptions of the brain to create those surprise reveal moments where our brains, having filled in gaps and predicted outcomes are shown to be tricked.
Example: The Kanizsa triangle:
In this illusion, the Pac-Man-like shapes give the impression of a triangle in our minds. It seems like a triangle is there because we’re used to seeing triangles. We only need the suggestion of one — implied via the corners — to fill in the rest of the picture with our minds.
Teaching a class is a hard job, I know, I’ve done it for a long time and similarly, leading a school is demanding as you are both the organizational and operational ultimate ‘responsible person’ and the cultural compass. As a school leader I know maintaining the ‘good order’ in the classrooms, yards and shared spaces matters.
Recently I’ve visited two schools in two countries which, on the surface seemed similar by size, location, profile, staffing mix, economics, demographics and structures. At a superficial scan, these were ‘good schools’.
After a school visit , I always reflect, ‘How did that school make me feel and why?’
This was where they couldn’t have been more different!
A Tale of Two Schools
Both stated a similar vision for their learners. They wanted their graduates to be creative, confident young people who could make responsible decisions together, were able to self regulate, navigate social challenges positively and to contribute purposefully to society. Both schools had a focus on developing the ‘whole-child’ through whole school agreed approaches to developing social and emotional skills. Both talked about ‘voice, choice and agency’
School 1 (Elementary/ Primary Years)
Don’t talk. At lunchtime (let’s call this one ‘feeding time’) the students arrived in total silence sat in allocated rows with their plastic trays. There was a ‘no-sound ‘level one’ volume rule monitored by a leader up front with a microphone to shoosh and if necessary, shift to ‘level zero’. If not achieved, everyone had to sit in total silence for 3 minutes to ‘learn what zero was’.
The squeal of walk-talkies on the monitoring staff belts was, frankly , alarming in this confined silent hall.
Students were allowed to rehearse for the upcoming school concert by silent lip syncing only.
Students were able to whisper a joke on stage once a week but there was to be no audible laughter, students wiggled fingers to indicate their response.
2. Don’t have fun Across the visit there were other curious rules. It was snowing and the kids were excited- a no-touch-snow rule was enforced. Painted dots showed where to stand in line outside classrooms. Enforcers (both adult and trained children) roamed the yard at playtimes searching for non-compliance with various ‘safety’ rules.
3. Don’t touch During play time a strict no physical contact of any form rule was monitored with a consequence of the game being banner for everyone for the remainder of playtime should there be contact.
4. Follow the bell An abrasive buzzer which would be disturbing in a high security facility controlled the day as did the disembodied voice through the speaker system. Move, stop, designated toilet/ washroom break/ eat/ arrive/ leave.
School 2 (Elementary/ Primary Years)
1 Be Respectful At lunchtime here the students sat in small self-selected groups around round tables. They placed table cloths and flowers and laid out plates and silverware. Sometimes the teachers manipulated the groups for social engineering. The teachers sat at their own round table, broke bread, laughed and talked as did the children. Was there the occasional reminder to be respectful for others (usually from other children) and adjust volume- sure. The students (hundreds) engaged in relaxed, happy chats or simply ate quietly surrounded by a lovely buzz of mindless chatter.
2 Self manage Almost every student had a watch or mobile phone and knew exactly when to be where they needed to be. .. prior to this there was a ‘bell’ but it was the sound of wind chimes and the early-years classrooms still had this to help the little ones get moving back from playtime…it was, well, magical sounding.
3. Have Fun and include Others There was also snow and rain at this school in abundance and everyone learnt to play with it and in -it. The kids dressed appropriately and had an amazing time building things out of the ice bricks they ‘set’ the day before with water and food dye. The big issue wasn’t ‘getting wet or cold or dirty’ but were you getting along, solving problems and being kind’. You could find a grown-up to help but they were often busy playing, chatting and enjoying their break.
4. Learn by doing there was an acceptance here that being a ‘kid’ was not being an ‘adult in waiting’ and was a period for development, learning and exploration. The children learnt to deal with disappointment, success, hurt feelings, bumps and bruises as they engaged with others and the natural environment. I don’t know if there were significantly more head traumas or psychological traumas than school 1 but all I saw was joy at the freedom to play. The teachers took a very ‘wait and see’ approach intervening if there was need and following up with 1:1’s or 1:fews to see how things could be improved.
When Words Don’t Line Up
Culture is tricky. It’s expressed through policy, artefacts, practices, languages and processes by everyone in a school or organisation.
Where the words don’t line up e.g.
“We value student voice, choice and agency.”
We need to remember that while kids don’t like hypocrisy, they will learn it from us and I’m not sure if that should be a takeaway from schooling.
What science-based approaches can help us to feel happier? My latest blog explores what works and how to be happier or, slightly less miserable.
This is a rough transcript of a session I led at Microsoft recently for their internal Wellness Wednesday program.
Happiness is an electrifying and elusive state, philosophers, psychologists , economists and a million well-being gurus all attempt to pin it down. Since the 1990’s a new branch of psychology, positive psychology has turned it’s attention to better understanding this human condition recognising this as more than a temporary positive mood but rather a state of well-being generated when we live a life we perceive to be ‘good’, where we are engaged with purpose, explore our passions and interests and are content with our capacity to contribute to and control aspects of our lives.
Happiness matters to us in order to lead fulfilling lives and matters to those around us as all emotions are contagious and happy people are positive superspreaders.
Think back to a time when you were happy…maybe picture the image appearing on an old school polaroid photo as your shake it.
Just recalling a moment or period of happiness decreases the stress hormone cortisol and increases levels of serotonin a positive neurotransmitter sometimes called the happiness hormone. In fact Scaccia (2017) notes when serotonin levels are normal anxiety decreases, focus increases and our emotions are more regulated.
Daniel Goldman author of ‘Focus’ notes there are benefits to be gained with activation of the pre-frontal cortex, the section of brain which controls cognitive functions such as regulating critical body functions such as movement, creativity, impulse control, emotional responses, moral behavior, fear responses, intuition, perseverance, and self-awareness.
Happiness is beyond the smiley face sticker…but even when we think of this universal icon of happiness there are two sides. One is the design, created by graphic artist and ad-man Harvey Ross Ball in 1963 Worchester, Massachusetts for a campaign for an insurance company…that’s the front but its on the reverse, the chemic compounds creating the reactive or non-reactive polymers that make the smiley face sticker stick! Simply put, the science on the back makes it work and its the same for positive psychology, its the science on the back that makes it stick and I’ll be outlining some science based practices that have been showing to improve your subjective well-being aka happiness.
Lets look under the hood for a moment at the brain. It appears we are born with a set point for happiness.
40% appears to be set genetically
10% is influenced by external events in our lives
40% a massive 40% is what we choose …how we manage our mindset towards optimism or pessimism.
There’s been some interesting research done on genetically identical twins who were raised in very different contexts and accordingly did not share the same environments, experiences and social settings… in studies they were found to have almost identical ‘set-points’. These were compared with fraternal twins raised in the same household who invariably had very different set-points…it seems genetics plays a role…some research into the impact of meditation on the telomeres (DNA stuff) showed that those who invested intentional effort into practices like meditation have structurally different telomeres that those that did not…in a sense, intentional practice was altering the building blocks of DNA and therefore it follows, those changes would be passed on…think about that!
Our brain, lets be clear, is built to help us survive and doesn’t really care if you’re happy or not.
Our brain looks for patterns and shortcuts and is quick to strategically prune pathways which it feels are redundant. Your brain tries to help you by triggering responses to the things you have convinced it are a threat to your survival…like a deadline, a meeting or any activity you really don’t want to do. Your brain will then work to ensure you are removed from that threat….thats why when you have a really pressing deadline you decide its the perfect time to clean the kitchen cupboards, or you are suddenly exhausted and deserve a nap or the fridge is calling you to observe its contents (again)….in a sense procrastination is the sign of a healthy brain fulfilling its primary function to ensure survival…not always helpful!!!
Our brain get bored., it quickly normalizes novelty. It looks for patterns then figures it no longer has to pay attention so redirects attention away but…when the pattern no longer follows…where are my keys anyone? Your brain just figured you put them where you always put them and simply wasnt paying attention when you placed them somewhere else..
This feature of our brain to normalize novelty also explains why pursuing happiness is sometimes like constantly pumping a deflating tire…this is the hedonistic treadmill…mistaking happiness for distraction can lead up to one Amazon shopping spree after another as we seek the temporary dopamine hit associated with the reward.
Most of us believe that life accomplishments (new car, new job, new relationship, new vaccuum etc) will bring lasting happiness and other events possibly profound sadness. Research suggests these are misperceptions and are bursts of experiences not the end -to-end of the event.
We are bad at predicting what will make us happy and also the duration and intensity. In clinical experiments where people were asked to make predictions an then checked back, they always overestimated the experience…again, our brains are really good at adapting, normalizing and them basically forgetting.
We think things and symbols of success will make us happy and they dont. It turns out these have a short burn time wheras anticipating an experience , living the experiencing an then re-living the experience has a long happy burn for us.
Being happy means and absence of sadness- not true now all emotions matter and serve a purpose. The word ’emotion’ comes from the same Latin root as ‘motor’ and ‘motion’…’emotion’ literally means to be in motion and a meaninful life encompasses disappointment and loss.
What can we do that is science based to improve our happiness…what is the glue that makes this all stick and maybe use some of that available 40% to enhance our wellbeing?
Strategies To Rewire Your Brain For More Happy
What we choose to place in our conscious mind flourishes and our minds wander about 40% of the time …often unhelpfully, ruminating, problematizing and scanning for threats.
Making a habit out of some of the following will make a difference. Creating a goal and committing to journalling each day will make a difference in creating a habit of the mind and basically rewiring your brain for a more positive, hopeful or optimistic. view.
Practice and plan for kindness
Happy people are motivated to kind things for others and it turns out performing acts of kindness is good for you too it increases life satisfaction and generates serotonin and oxytocin, the social bonding hormone. Researchers at Oxford note that observing others being kindness and being kind to ourselves makes us happier…remember, emotions are contagious.
Happy people spend more time with others…even loose connections matters so intentionally planning to have small interactions with baristas, co-workers, or chance encounters with people in the course of your day can improve your happiness.
The secret to happiness can be found in helping others and MRI technologies show that giving to others/ connecting with others activates the pleasure center of our brain…altruism is hardwired.
Exercise and Sleep
Sleep is elusive and complex and matters tremendously to our happiness. While asleep our body and brain repair and strengthens our immune system and recharges the systems which regulate emotions and consolidates memories.
It appears sleep and happiness is a bit bi-directional…happy people sleep more and people who sleep more are happier…a tough gig if you have babies!
Whether its meditation or mindfulness , it’s all about a very intentional approach to be present within a moment and take charge of that mind that wanders 40% of the time and even 10 minutes increases alpha waves in the brain as we gently return our attention back to the present.
These practices are easy to learn and apply and help us savor experiences around us and extend the pleasure we experience in events and moments, provide us with clarity and some research even suggests that mindful practices affect our very DNA …suggesting a disposition, a happiness set point or a propensity for optimism may be passed down to future generations.
Psychological research consistently links gratitude practices to happiness and according to Harvard Health it produces positive emotions, helps us relish the present experiences, improves overall health, enables us to deal better with adversity, enhances relationships and makes more empathetic and less aggresive.
Forgiveness is the release of resentment and importantly does not necessarily mean reconciliation. Research studies comparing forgiveness vs revenge show that those who choose forgiveness feel that their humanity has been restored.
Forgives enhances mood, generates optimism, protects you from stress, reduces anger, anxiety and depression. There is an interesting study where a group are asked to carry a heavy backpack up a hill, those who were asked to forgive someone about a past transgression consistently report the hill less steep and the bag less heavy.
It seems that holding a grudge which may feel good, actually weighs you down!
All the strategies above have been shown to improve your subjective well-being aka happiness providing they become a habit so planning is critical, committing socially to action, ensuring there is support and consideration for managing obstacles are explicit.
Simply put, fail to plan, plan to fail.
Journalling each day reflecting upon the actions matters; what we place in our conscious mind , flourishes.
So, our brains are flawed and designed for survival, not happiness. You have a whopping 40% of brainpower to use to rewire your outlook, to build a new set-point.
Take your flawed brain and big heart and work towards being happier (or at least a little less miserable) and remember, the happier you are for others, the happier you’ll feel yourself!
The World Happiness Report 2022 reveals a bright light in dark times. The pandemic brought not only pain and suffering but also an increase in social support and benevolence. As we battle the ills of disease and war, it is essential to remember the universal desire for happiness and the capacity of individuals to rally to each other’s support in times of great need.
Happiness is a complex emotion that scientists have been studying for decades. Research has shown that happiness is not only important for our overall well-being, but it also plays a crucial role in learning and education. In this blog post, we will explore the science behind happiness and why it should be a key focus in education.
First, let’s define what happiness is. According to the World Happiness Report, happiness is defined as “the extent to which an individual judges the overall quality of his or her life-as-a-whole positively.” This includes both emotional well-being and cognitive evaluations of one’s life satisfaction.
Recent research has shown that happiness is not just a fleeting emotion, but it is also linked to better physical and mental health outcomes. Studies have found that happy individuals have lower levels of stress, inflammation, and risk of chronic diseases. They also have stronger immune systems and are more resilient to stress.
But why is happiness important in education? The simple answer is that happy students learn better. Studies have shown that happy students have better academic performance, are more engaged in their studies, and are more likely to graduate. This is because happiness is linked to better memory, attention, and problem-solving skills. Happy students are also more motivated to learn and are more likely to set and achieve their academic goals.
(Image: Serotonin, the positive neurotransmitter from my site , The Happiness Foundry)
One way to promote happiness in education is through positive psychology interventions. These interventions focus on building strengths, setting goals, and increasing positive emotions. One example of a positive psychology intervention is the “Three Good Things” exercise. This exercise involves students reflecting on three good things that happened to them each day and how they made them feel. This exercise has been shown to increase happiness and improve academic performance.
Another way to promote happiness in education is through social and emotional learning (SEL). SEL is the process of teaching students the skills they need to manage their emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. SEL has been shown to improve academic performance, reduce behavioral problems, and increase emotional well-being. Join the community I founded SELinEdu here .
In conclusion, the science of happiness is a complex and ever-evolving field. However, one thing is clear: happiness is not just a nice-to-have, but it is also a key ingredient for success in learning and education. Positive psychology interventions and social and emotional learning are effective ways to promote happiness in education. By focusing on the emotional well-being of students, we can create a more positive and productive learning environment for all.
Coming UP: Join me for the Global Deep Learning Lab in April. See all the speakers and planned learning events here
Have you held a professional development course at your organization and found your audience to seem disengaged and disinterested? Have you put hours into developing a curriculum, working on your presentation style, and collecting relevant materials, only to have a sneaking suspicion that your audience members were checking emails or nodding off on the other side of the Zoom screen?
You likely fell victim to a common mistake many professionals make: forgetting that adults learn much differently than children.
Why Adults Are Harder To Teach
All too often, when we want to teach a new skill to a group, we fall back on what we remember from childhood: memorization, worksheets, charts and tests. But what got us excited to learn as children won’t have the same effectiveness on adults, because adult learners have their own unique set of characteristics for learning.
Children and adults respond differently to teaching. Children accept that the teacher knows more than they do, that the curriculum is satisfactory and that the information they’re learning is going to be useful. They rarely challenge the teacher’s authority or the curriculum’s accuracy because they don’t have a lot of their own experiences to draw from.
Adults, on the other hand, have a lifetime of these experiences, and they have no problem confronting the teacher with judgements like, “That won’t work” or “That’s not true, in my experience.”
If the content is not immediately useful, adult learners will often dismiss it as unnecessary. How many times have you walked into a presentation and thought, “I know more than the speaker?” There’s a good chance students are walking into your presentations thinking the same thing.
To Teach Adults, Tap Into These Principles Of Adult Learning
To successfully teach the adults in your organization, bake these five principles of adult learning into your program. By actively adjusting your content to address the needs of adult learners, you’ll get to enjoy a more engaged audience that’s easier to teach, leading to better outcomes at the end of your program, too.
1. Adults want to self-direct their learning. Whileyoung learners are still developing autonomy and rely on teachers to guide them, adults do their best learning when they make the choice to participate. Start your program by listing the direct benefits and uses of the information you’re going to teach, and allow people to choose whether or not to participate or make decisions about their pace, place, or mode of learning. This way, you provide a sense of ownership and control for adult learners.
2. Adults pull from their own experiences. Unlike children, adults have years of real-life experience to draw on when learning something new. Include real-world examples and realistic scenarios in your training to connect with the past experiences of the learners. Do a skills assessment prior to your program, and strategically leverage the skills of your audience in the course design.
3. Adults are motivated by their goals. Show your students how the content you’re teaching will help them achieve their personal and professional goals. If they don’t see a real-life benefit from your course, they won’t just be bored. They’ll also be resentful that you took up their valuable time. Ask students what drove them to participate in your course and what they expect from it. Engage in frequent check-ins during the progression of the program to make sure your students are finding value along the way.
4. Adults are only particularly interested in relevant information. Adult learners want to know that what they’ll be learning is useful and relevant in their lives right now. Remember to demonstrate both long- and short-term benefits of what you’re teaching. Include access to deeper-dive content for those who want to look into the more intricate details and research.
5. Adults connect with problem-solving. As adults, we solve problems in our lives every day. We’re wired to feel pleasure in finding solutions. Present your materials in a way that encourages your audience to use critical thinking and problem solving, rather than just presenting information.
You’re Not Just Creating Knowers; You’re Creating Learners
The goal of professional development isn’t just to transfer information from your brain to your students’. Your goal is more so to create a staff that is excited about learning and growing. The more reward they see from learning, the more they’ll be motivated to push themselves and your organization toward innovation and greatness.
In the recent study, The class of 2030 and life-ready learning, Microsoft partnered with McKinsey & Company’s Education practice to gain valuable insights about how we can all help prepare the class of 2030 to thrive in work and in life. This module will help to introduce you to the research findings, draw insight from these findings, and give you practical ways to apply this learning in your school.
In this module, you will:
Understand how education environments of the future will function based on data from several recent research studies.
Explore skills learners of the future will need to be successful.
Gain new insights from these studies that they can put into practice.
Maximize these research findings into actionable change to benefit learners of the future.