Findings have shown that Thriving in Action in-person initiative has lowered mental health distress and increased GPA scores
Two Ryerson scholars have created an online resource using a combination of positive psychology and progressive learning strategies that can help students experience sustainable success, live with intention and transform their relationship to school.
Thriving in Action Online was organized by clinical psychologist Diana Brecher and Deena Kara Shaffer, co-ordinator of Student Transitions and Retention in Ryerson’s Student Affairs. It was inspired by the success of the in-person Thriving in Action initiative, which started in Winter 2017 as a pilot not-for-credit course.
“The goal is to provide skills, meditations, exercises and experiences that together can help build their sense of resilience and capacity to love being students,” Brecher said.
This resilience resource is formed around 12 themes, each ending in “-ness.” They are appreciativeness, attentiveness, connectedness, deliberateness, determinedness, healthfulness, joyfulness, meaningfulness, open-heartedness, presentness, resourcefulness and skillfulness.
These themes represent a variety of skill-building exercises around a “way of being.” Shaffer says this language matters a lot.
“When we posed the question, ‘How can I learn to love being a student?’ we could have said: ‘Be appreciative, be joyful,’” Shaffer said. “But that is really bossy and this is not a prescriptive resource… It’s an invitation to explore instead of a thing that you have to do or something you have to be.”
Thriving in Action Online has two core pedagogical models; one of thriving and one of learning.
The thriving component relates to the Five Factor Model of Resilience developed by Brecher, which are gratitude, grit, mindfulness, optimism and self-compassion.
The other pedagogical model in Thriving in Action Online is learning. This refers to the Five Features of Wide Awake Learning model created by Shaffer, which are agency, attention, being well and well-being, connectedness and practice. This title was inspired by education scholar Maxine Greene’s languaging of “wide-awakeness.”
“Wide-awake means instead of letting school passively hit you and just trundling along, instead you can step into your learning journey,” Shaffer said. “We can restore our ability to pay attention, we can focus better instead of feeling so fragmented… We don’t have to keep well-being separate from school. [Well-being] is not a ‘nice to have,’ it’s ‘necessary to have.’”
Brecher and Shaffer have also trained over 350 post-secondary colleagues on the Thriving in Action content and implemented the program at up to 20 institutions across the country.
Although this online resource can be effective for students, Brecher said that Thriving in Action Online is not meant to take the place of counselling.
If a student is suffering, they should visit the Centre for Student Development and Counselling or contact Good2Talk. For support with other concerns, they can explore #TakeCareRU groups or Ryerson’s Student Care offerings.