Learn more about CliftonStrengths in education. http://on.gallup.com/2fThsVG
“A unique thing about the university setting is that most people’s intention in working with students is they really want to see them grow and develop and have a successful experience throughout college.
And so the utilization of Strengths is such a viable way to be able to do that and connect the faculty and staff community with the student community.
With the Strengths based model what happens for an administrator, just like, I think, it was Louis and Lopez, they wrote about the five principles of Strengths based education. One part of that, one of the principals says it needs to be individualized.
And so what happens for the administrator and the faculty member, it individualizes the student experience to say that well, there’s a reason why public speaking may not be as valuable for you or you may not like it, you write better than you public speak. But there’s promptings for that, there’s reason for that.
And so I think understanding the individualization of the student can help build effective strategies that looks at what is right with this individual compared to, of course, the deficit model that says something’s wrong. As a faculty lecturer, I teach about 120 students a semester.
So all of my students take the assessment. And I integrate it into the classroom where I have activities, I have assignments, during, since I teach public speaking and writing, what happens is that as students are training in class, I give them Strengths based feedback, I keep it as a conversation piece, if you will.
In other words, it’s a common language in our class and so all of the students will comment on another student’s practice and say man, your Positivity showed up today. Or your Woo really showed itself as we were practicing. So I use it in the classroom. A student who approached me after class who says Conrad, I’ve got to tell you this story about what StrengthsFinder’s done for me.
She starts to talk about how she had a certain family member that told her that what she says is not valuable, what she says is not important. She has high communication and so for her to be able to verbally process and to share herself is a deep need and value. She needs a mirror and a platform to communicate, to share her thoughts.
And here’s this family member saying no, it’s not valuable. And so how she, when she looked at me, she said, “You have opened up my world in a way like never before. You have done things and the StrengthsFinder has shifted my very framework of how I see myself.” That’s just a nugget, a small story of many, but just the power of how it’s empowering many students.
The thing that I see when we really focus in on student Strength is I’ve been experiencing a change in their mindset, in our student’s mindset, that they feel like they can actually accomplish their goals.
And I think for so many years we had a certain, say, 30% of our student body that just didn’t think they could get it done. And now with the Strengths based approach to that?
And when kids feel like they can actually accomplish their goals, I find, you know, they’re driving their own learning, they’re working much harder and they really believe in themselves and I think that’s, that’s the big difference.
Trying to empower adolescents, those tweens in those difficult middle school years, to identify their talents early. The idea that, you know, if we had all learned our talent 10 or 20 years earlier, what kind of cumulative effect would that have had?
We’ve tried to use it as that focus on positivity and the common vocabulary to help understand ourselves and be self-reflective, but also the people that we work with and how we can collaborate and work best as teams.
Also one of the things we have, a lot of our buildings have taken it upon themselves to post the Strengths, to create Strengths mantras, kind of, as personal mission statements where they use that language to really express themselves and their students can get to know them better.
So we’ve tried to really use that to promote that positive culture and increase engagement in staff and students.
I was hired by Henrico County Schools, when they were opening up a new middle school in the area, to come in and do their leadership development teams. They wrote a grant in order to bring me in and, because of the grant, they had to document the changes that they made and what they learned.
And they wound up switching three different teachers to different roles right before the doors opened up, knowing what their Strengths were at that point. And it was a very successful first year at the middle school. And they attributed that to the StrengthsFinder.”