Cultivating Practical Optimism: A Review

Brain based researchers, Dr. Donna Wilson and Marcus Conyers through their research state that optimism, traditionally considered to be an unchangeable trait, is a way of thinking that can be learned and enhanced. People with a positive viewpoint have less stress, better creative problem-solving skills, and better health outcomes than less optimistic people. Additionally, these learners are more likely to persist in the sometimes-hard work of learning, motivated by the belief that they can accomplish their learning goals.

They also feel that many teachers realize that as students become more optimistic, they are motivated to progress through learning difficulties and to attain higher levels of achievement. These optimistic students also have greater resistance to depression and the negative effects of stress. Educators over the years have been taught implementation strategies to increase practical optimism and other keys to learning in the classroom.

Practical optimism describes an attitude about life that relies on taking realistic, positive action to increase the likelihood of successful results. Emphasizing positive emotions help students become more resilient and more likely to persevere with learning tasks. Their persistence is fueled by the belief that they will triumph over difficulty, learn from their mistakes, overcome plateaus in their performance, and progress. Practical optimism is demonstrated in The Little Engine That Could which states “I think I can,” “I think I can.”

There were six suggestions presented to build practical optimism in students.

  1. Ask students if they would like to learn a way to more consistently sustain practical optimism.
  2. Read aloud Treasure Hunter and Trash Collectors. Then say to the students, “The choice is yours. You get to decide.
  3. Ask students to think of five things they like or can feel good about.
  4. Ask students to write, draw, or create a concept map of these five things.
  5. Tell students to approach five people and share with them their five things and
  6. Continue to use this process once a week or once a month, encouraging students to find and add more things to their practical optimism list.

This would be shared and I would encourage teachers to utilize this in their classrooms to ensure academic success for students. Practical optimism is a means for getting the best from your brain and your life. Try it, you’ll like it because the results will be positive.

Follow Jalissa Bates on Twitter @BurninNLootin.