School Case Study

Can you really implement SMART Strengths at your school?  Yes You Can!

Is it really possible to change the culture of the school in the ways described in this book, to incorporate a focus on strengths and everything that goes on? The SMART Strengths Case Study answers that question in the affirmative by showing what happened at the Culver Academies between 2006 and 2010. Similar changes have occurred in other schools, including a rural public school district; Triton School Corporation in Bourbon, Indiana; and Christel House Academy, an urban charter school in Indianapolis, Indiana, that has many students coming from deprived backgrounds.

SMART Strengths contains many examples and stories from Culver, Triton, and Christel House Academy in Indianapolis, Indiana throughout the book, and the appendix demonstrates how changes can be made, describing both the enabling conditions and the growing involvement of people throughout the school system. Changes began with the support of school administrators and teachers, and radiated out to include parents, students, alumni, and other community members.

SMART Strengths will help you understand challenges through a newer, more practical lens that makes it easier to develop strategies that work with what a person already has, rather than what  he or she needs. You can appreciate why you feel so strongly about some character qualities, but do not care so much about others. Finally, you can find new ways to connect and build the quality relationships with colleagues, partners, and students that will extend your collective strengths.

From “Positive Education at Culver—A Case Study”

In brief, the Case Study discusses the following aspects of change, illustrating them primarily with examples from the Culver Academies:

• Enabling conditions that make creating a strengths-based culture possible.
• Incorporating a focus on strengths into the school mission.
• Performing initial staff training that will generate enthusiasm.

During the process, the school developed a shared language for talking about strength. This language facilitates communication among teachers, coaches, parents, staff, and students:

• Using appreciative and strengths-based approaches to solve cultural problems among teachers.

The example given here displays a need to move from departmental silos to a more collaborative culture among teachers in different departments:

• Establishing ongoing training practices to help experienced teachers lead new teachers into the strengths-based approach. This was necessary to convert the initial change into a long lasting, self-replicating system, as opposed to a fading fad.
• Helping parents grasp a strengths-based approach to learning so they can effectively support student learning at home.
• Incorporating strengths-based learning in activities performed by students moving through the high school grades to reinforce student awareness of their own personal strengths.
• Involving alumni in the character formation of senior students.

– From SMART Strengths Copyright 2011: John Yeager, Sherri Fisher, David