Behind all this is researched knowledge and years of pioneering work in Finland

We started together with dos. Lotta Uusitalo (find Lotta here) in 2014 to study positive education at the University of Helsinki, Department of Special Education. We were both special class teachers initially, and became interested in positive education after noticing that the traditional approach to teaching, mainly focusing on difficulties, was not leading to positive outcomes in our work. The first controlled study of positive pedagogy, and the teaching of character strengths in particular, was conducted in Espoo in 2015 (you can find the study here).
Research on positive pedagogy (eg. Vuorinen, Erikivi & Uusitalo, 2018. Jorsen. & Vuorinen, Hietajärvi & Uusitalo, 2019. Students’ Usage of Strengths and General Happiness Are Connected via School-Related Factors; under evaluation for publication) and my own experiences of strength-based education were particularly encouraging. So we started systematically teaching and researching strengths and quickly got hundreds of eager teachers to accompany us. Victory in the innovation competition organized by the Finnish National Independence Fund Sitra led to an explosion in demand, as a result of which the digitization of the method began. You can see the results of the ongoing work on Positive Learning Ltd website here.

For five years, I have developed positive pedagogy, research, education and practical tools for teachers and early childhood educators in Finland, as a pioneer in the field. My lectures and trainings have attracted thousands of participants in dozens of locations in more than 15 countries, and the feedback has been very enthusiastic, which has encouraged me to continue the ‘global goodwill movement’.

Learning new things and achieving goals requires putting the knowledge into practice. Together with Lotta Uusitalo we wrote See the Good! How to guide children and adolescents to find their strengths (2015), See the Good! Action Cards (2015), See the Good! Character crow’s guide for spotting strengths(2017) and See the Good! student cards (2019), which have been a success in Finland, and have now been translated into four languages. Our material supports early childhood educators and teachers in their work, and provide practical tools for educators, teachers and children.

See the good!

See the good! materials showcase character strengths, how they can be recognized and developed, and how you can use them to promote learning.
None of us is a champion of honesty or self-restraint; we become strong in what we do a lot; we get weaker in what we do just a little. Ability for self-regulation, for example, has been found to better predict school achievement than IQ.
Teaching about strengths has a longer lasting effect on learning and is more likely to lead to a satisfying life than teaching solely cognitive skills. Regardless of the field or time, we succeed with our strengths. Let’s catch the kids being good!

There are various character strengths that can be identified, such as:

  • perseverance
  • self-regulation
  • bravery
  • social intelligence
  • humour

Some of the strengths play a central role in toddler age, while others become more dominant in the life of a teenager. Each person has an individual ‘strength map’. On the map, strong colors may be seen as indicating the strengths that are well in use already, while the ones that need practising are painted in lighter colors. However, strengths do not compete with each other, and none of them is more important or better than the other. The situations they are needed in only vary.

A strength spotter learns to identify character strengths, consciously bring them to life, and harness them to help in action in new situations. Strength spotter’s first step is to learn the strength language. Learning the words to describe different skills related to character makes identification of concrete actions related to them possible, and building the ‘strength muscles’ becomes conscious. A child who dares to taste a new dish will not only grow his variety for different flavors, but also his bravery. A young person who shuts down his mobile phone not only saves the battery of his phone, but also learns the basics of the ability to regulate their own behavior in the future.

See the Good! A book about character strengths


See the Good! Guide to spot the Good


See the Good! Activity Cards


See the Good! Student Cards


Positive CV

I began developing Positive CV in Espoo in my special class and in a few research classes. It all started with the idea of developing a solution to a problem: “Pupils become valued and visible at school only in a narrow way that often fails to document the skills meaningful to them, and thus may reduce commitment to study and subsequently make it harder to find their place in the world.”
For example, evidence of socio-emotional skills, at school as well as in extra-curricular activities, is not documented anywhere, and therefore not usable when applied to further education or work.

The national core curriculum (National Board of Education, 2014) calls for the importance of humanity, cross-cutting knowledge and skills, possibility to create one’s own learning path, self-care and working life skills. The realization of their teaching varies greatly due to e.g the lack of effective material and digital solutions to teach and document these skills. Knowing oneself and being able to use your strengths to find your place in studying and pursuing a career, is all the more important as the emphasis of high school and college diplomas in student selections increases.
The first version of PCV was born in 2015, when I started to identify the strengths of my students together with their parents, and the enthusiastic reception it gained from them encouraged me to continue. My work found its fulfillment in 2017 when my collaboration with Lotta Uusitalo inspired us to apply for the Finnish National Fund’s Sitra’s competition, and our team created a social innovation, Positive CV, which was awarded with the first prize. Currently, Positive CV (PCV) is a part of the Positive service, which provides teachers and early childhood educators with practical tools to teach about character strengths and socio-emotional skills, and assess these so-called soft skills. PCV is thus a resume of broad skills that helps children and adolescents to identify and assess their diverse abilities and strengths, and captures evidence of skills in different environments; school, home, hobbies and circles of friends.

Every child and adolescent has skills, strengths and competences that are visible in different environments and deserve to be seen. Instead of underlining shortcomings, focusing on the good and what works well, gives everyone the opportunity to shine. The central goal and value base of PCV is to promote positive perception, whereby the child or young person is seen through their strengths. This again enables them to see others in a positive light as well, through their skills and good qualities rather than weaknesses, which also contributes to a positive learning atmosphere. PCV is a welcome and highly needed assessment tool alongside the traditional school report, as it captures a rich picture of everyone with their best qualities highlighted.
The Finnish National Fund Sitra’s jury stated that our concept is ingeniously simple, and that it strongly remodels the way we currently recognize and evaluate knowledge. Our journey continues, and we will present Positive CV to teachers and students in 2020, and by doing this provide a tool to show the skills, talents and strengths of everyone.
Read more on Sitra’s website here.

Check out Positive!

We wanted positive pedagogy to become a new approach in the educational world, and our research showed that we were on the right track. Systematic teaching, researching and documenting of strengths excited our colleagues as well, and we soon got great teachers to join us on the path to develop further the inspiring, positive method.