Research Programs

The Centre for Positive Psychology and Education focuses on 6 synergistic research programs:


Positive Lifelong Education

This program capitalises on cutting-edge advances in Educational Psychology theory, research, and practice to enable and empower individuals at all stages in life to enhance their educational and social potential. Within educational institutions, we believe in enhancing educational potential throughout the lifespan. This involves the enhancement of learning skills, social and emotional capability, relationships, and engagement in learning including implementing research-derived interventions and testing their effectiveness by robust empirical research and ensuring that all students including gifted and talented students realise their full potential. Beyond schooling, positive lifelong education can lead to higher life satisfaction, general self-efficacy, self-esteem, and better functioning at critical life transitions and developmental stages.

Program Head: Associate Professor Alexander Yeung 

Positive SELF and Well-Being

This program capitalises on interdisciplinary research to build individual, family, workplace, and community capacity that has always been a focus of UWS SELF (Self-concept Enhancement and Learning Facilitation) researchers. SELF, which will be housed in the Centre for Positive Psychology and Education, is recognised internationally as the lead organisation of an international program, with over 450 members from 45 countries. SELF is dedicated to the study of self-beliefs, motivation, and related psycho-social constructs. Its multidisciplinary rationale is that individuals who feel more positively about themselves are likely to be more successful and as such systems must simultaneously reinforce objective outcomes and self-beliefs (for example, academic self-concept and achievement in education). Translating this message into diverse settings, the research program emphasises a methodological-substantive synergy, drawing on advanced quantitative methodology in pursuit of substantive and policy-oriented research. The success of SELF research is evidenced in the voluminous publications in leading international journals, being one of the premier research leaders in educational psychology hosting an International Biennial Conference, and boasting its own biennial monograph series. The already existing established track record of collaborative research among international members of SELF including collaborative funding, reciprocal visiting scholars, and co-authored publications in leading international research journals indicates the effectiveness of our research in making a real difference in an international context.

Program Head: Professor Herb Marsh

Positive Psychology in Health and Medical Education

This program capitalises on inter-disciplinary research in health and medical education to advance Health and Medical Education research and practice. For example, keeping pace with the supply of doctors and nurses for rural and regional communities is one of Australia’s biggest challenges. There is an emphasis worldwide on elucidating psycho-social drivers that enable home-grown doctors and nurses to successfully complete studies and practice in underserved communities. Currently, there is a lack of research identifying these drivers. Capitalising on cutting-edge interdisciplinary theory/research and multi-method analyses this research program will explicate psycho-social determinants of student nurses’ and doctors’ achievement, retention, well-being, and commitment to practice in underserved communities. Utilising a positive psychology perspective will help to explicate an understanding of the major contributing factors to effective health and medical education; efficient and accurate selection, assessment, and career trajectories of health and medical professional.

Program Head: Professor Ian Wilson  

Positive Indigenous Studies

UWS is situated in one of the highest urban Indigenous population regions in Australia. This provides UWS with a unique opportunity to make a substantial contribution to Indigenous Education and Indigenous Studies in Australia. Indigenous Australians are the most disadvantaged Australians on all socio-economic indicators and are the most educationally disadvantaged Australians. National reports and all Australian governments have for decades acknowledged that Indigenous people are significantly educationally disadvantaged and participate less in educationcompared to the rest of the population. Given that educational outcomes predicate success in life opportunities, this issue is of dire national concern. This research program capitalises on new advances in theory, research, and practice to strengthen Indigenous Studies and build the research capability of Indigenous researchers. CPPE defines Indigenous Education as both: Optimising the capacity and capability of Indigenous people and communities; and educating all Australians to recognise Indigenous cultures and knowledge as being of equal validity to non-Indigenous cultures and to secure Indigenous Australia in the frame of reference of mainstream Australia. This research program uses a positive psychology frame to explicate novel research-derived solutions that seed success in: Closing the achievement and participation gaps for Indigenous students at all levels of education; enhancing Indigenous students’ identity and self-concepts, educational participation and engagement; contributing significantly to excellence in the teaching of Indigenous Studies to all Australian students; improving relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples; and ensuring Indigenous people attain educational and employment outcomes and life opportunities that are commensurate with those of other Australians.

Program Head: Professor Rhonda Craven 

Positive Substantive-Methodological Synergy

A hallmark of the Centre for Positive Psychology and Education is a commitment to substantive-methodological synergy. In a special issue of Contemporary Educational Psychology devoted to the use of advanced statistical methodologies in applied research, the editor Jonna Kulikowich emphasised that: “In coining the phrase ‘substantive-methodological synergies,’ Herb[Marsh] and KT[Hau] share their visionary perspective on new directions for research.” Marsh and Hau (2007) argued that complex substantive questions in applied research typically must be cutting-edge substantively as well as methodologically. Complex issues require strong methodology; methodological developments are stronger when stimulated by real substantive issues. Bringing the two together creates a powerful synergy. Lamenting the systematic failure of much applied research in education, psychology, and the social sciences more generally to capitalise on exciting new methodological developments, Marsh and Hau argued that substantive-methodological synergies bring together research into important complex issues and sophisticated methodology appropriate to the task. CPPE capitalises on cutting-edge methodological developments to address complex substantive issues with theoretical, practical, and policy implications. Such developments not only continue to maintain the status of CPPE researchers as leaders of the world research paradigms, but also facilitate a strong link with the other five themes that will create strong ripple effects on the quality of research in each theme.

Program Head: Associate Professor Alexandre Morin 

Positive Psychology and Maladaptive Behaviour

Traditional focus of several important branches of psychology – for example, clinical psychology, forensic psychology – has been on trying to understand and modify behaviour indicative of mental health problems and readiness to break the accepted social norms. Although early notions of positive psychology claimed such a negative deficit focus was too post-hoc (for example, cure rather than prevention), it has since been recognised that the antecedents of maladaptive behaviours and cognitions must be understood to promote resiliency and an adaptive transition into more positive functioning. That it is increasingly being recognised that the likes of violent behaviour, radicalization, hate, racism, discrimination, anxiety, and depression may even co-exist with more popular positive psychology constructs, the complex interplay between positivity and negativity must be more carefully understood with regards to their dynamic interactions with life satisfaction, diversity, and wellbeing. CPPE will study all these emotions and cognitions by including them within a broader framework of militant extremist mindset (MEM), cross-cultural psychology, and education. Since there are pronounced cross-cultural differences in MEM as well as on measures personality, social attitudes, values and social norms, it will be possible to compare subgroups within Australia with respect to both positive and negative emotions. It will also be possible to compare Australian data with data collected in other countries. This information will be of use to policy makers and can lead to the development of intervention procedures to prevent and modify a wide range of maladaptive behaviour.

Program Head: Professor Lazar Stankov  

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