NIS International Research-to-Practice Conference

Inspirational Speakers

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Keynote Speakers

Alejandro Adler

Alejandro Adler is a well-being scientist and a postdoctoral fellow at the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

He works under the leadership of Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology. His research focuses on well-being, education, and public policy. Currently, Alejandro is working with the governments of Australia, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Mexico, Peru, and the USA to infuse curricula across schools in these countries with Positive Psychology and to measure the impact of these interventions on youth well-being. He has published a number of articles in both scholarly and non-academic outlets, and he frequently speaks at international conferences and gatherings.
Originally from Mexico, Alejandro has a BA in psychology, a BSc in economics, an MA in psychology, and a PhD in psychology, all from the University of Pennsylvania. Before enrolling in his PhD program under the supervision of Dr. Martin Seligman, Alejandro worked as a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for High Impact Philanthropy, a think tank dedicated to channeling philanthropic funds to where they can have the most social impact. He is currently one of 60 members of the International Expert Well-being Group – a group of leading international experts from distinct disciplines who are working with the United Nations to create a New Development Paradigm based on well-being and happiness, which went into effect in 2015 when the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expired and became the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


VIII NIS International Conference, 27-28 October 2016: Keynote Speech

Positive Education: Educating for Well-being and Academic Excellence

Can well-being be taught at a large scale, and should it be taught in schools and beyond? Does teaching well-being improve academic performance? To answer these questions, we present rigorous scientific data from three large-scale randomized controlled trials (RCTs) from around the world. In Program 1, 18 secondary schools (n=8,385 students) in Bhutan were randomly assigned to a treatment group (k=11) or a control group (k=7). The treatment schools received an intervention targeting ten non-academic well-being skills, including mindfulness, empathy, compassion, effective communication, creative thinking, critical thinking, problem solving, leadership, resilience, and decision making. Program 2 was a replication study at a larger scale in 70 secondary schools (m = 68,762 students) in Mexico. The schools were randomly assigned to a treatment group (j = 35) or a control group (j = 35). Program 3 was the last replication study at a larger scale in 694 secondary schools (q = 694,153 students) in Peru. The schools were randomly assigned to a treatment group (h = 347) or a control group (h = 347). In all three programs, students in the intervention schools reported significantly higher well-being and they performed significantly better on standardized national exams at the end of a 15-month intervention. Following these positive results, all three programs have been taken to a national scale in Bhutan, Peru, and Mexico. Our results suggest that, independent of social, economic, or cultural context, teaching well-being in schools at a large scale is both feasible and desirable, both for the intrinsic value of well-being, as well as for the instrumental value of well-being: the positive impact of well-being on academic performance, on physical health, and on other favorable life outcomes.


VIII NIS International Conference, 27-28 October 2016: Breakout Sessions

Positive Education: From Theory to Practice

Should schools teach well-being? We present the latest research on youth well-being, on youth well-being measurement, and on the relationships between student well-being, academic achievement, and professional success. Well-being science now clearly demonstrates that we can define the multiple domains of well-being, that we can reliably measure well-being, and that we can teach and learn the skills for well-being. Furthermore, increases in well-being have positive effects on other desirable life outcomes, such as academic performance, physical health, and citizenship. We argue that well-being can be taught, that it should be taught, both for its intrinsic value and for its instrumental value, and that it should be incorporated in to schools’ curricula. We present how well-being can be embedded into an education system, from the public policy level all the way to the individual classroom level. Guided by the best existing rigorous science on well-being and education, public policy related to education can and should promote both well-being and academic excellence.

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