Positive education is still a newly emerging field. With the explosion of research and practice on positive psychology, the timing was right for a Handbook to try to raise awareness of positive education and the application of positive psychology to the education context. In this interview, we talked to Professor Michael L. Wehmeyer about how publishing open access has extended impact and reach, something that is especially important to topics related to the SDGs.
My co-editor, Dr. Peggy Kern, was the founding president of the Educational Division and is an international leader in the application of positive psychology to the education context. In conversations we had as part of that division, the idea of a comprehensive handbook on positive education arose. There was not a similar handbook available and we felt that the field of positive education had grown enough that this was something that would benefit the field. To quote from the online description of the book, The Palgrave Handbook of Positive Education, “The handbook offers an in-depth understanding and critical consideration of the relevance of positive psychology to education, which encompasses its theoretical foundations, the empirical findings, and the existing educational applications and interventions. The contributors situate wellbeing science within the broader framework of education, considering its implications for teacher training, education and developmental psychology, school administration, policy making, pedagogy, and curriculum studies.”
I think this book contributes to two of the Sustainable Development Goals, Good Health and Well-Being and Quality Education. The contribution to Quality Education is fairly self-evident, but the field of positive education emerged from the broader field of positive psychology, which focuses on strengths-based approaches to well-being and flourishing. As we stated in the first chapter of the handbook, positive education has “a focus on promoting wellbeing and other positive states and qualities, such happiness, flourishing, strengths, and capabilities. The definition of and focus on wellbeing is anchored in positive psychology rather than other disciplinary perspectives and philosophies of how to define, assess, and build wellbeing.”
Our intent was to create a handbook that was both comprehensive, covering a wide array of topics, and also practitioner-oriented. Our purpose was to give light to the plurality of models and perspectives in positive education, and to highlight high quality research and research-to-practice efforts. We purposefully emphasized an international and multi-disciplinary approach and asked authors to not only cover the research and theory of a given topic, but to identify practices that educators could implement now to enhance well-being and flourishing in their schools. As we neared the end of the editing process, it just seemed obvious that if we were to impact and support the practitioners we had identified as the audience for this book, it would need to be open access. The fact that the Palgrave Handbook of Positive Education has had almost 350,000 accesses since it was published suggests that going open access was the right move.
I had been communicating with an editor at Palgrave Macmillan, Rachel Daniel, about a book pertaining to work in positive psychology and self-determination after we met at an American Psychological Association meeting. After a period of time that was probably longer than she preferred, and with the growth of the IPPA Educational Division under Peggy’s leadership, the idea of a book on positive education seemed to be timely. Rachel was very supportive of the idea and responded to an early draft of the table of contents.
Positive education is still a newly emerging field. With the explosion of research and practice on positive psychology, we felt that the timing for the Handbook was right to try to raise awareness of positive education and the application of positive psychology to the education context. Through open access, many more people around the world have access to the ideas and strategies presented in the Handbook, which we believe will facilitate the growth of the field.
Again, the biggest benefit has simply been the capacity to reach a large, international audience with the Handbook. As with most authors and editors, I frequently get requests to recommend resources or I get requests for chapters I’ve written. Too often, I’m only able to provide a link for the person to purchase the book, but with the open access format, I can provide the entire book. It genuinely feels like we’re disseminating this important work to many of the people we hope will take the information and ideas and implement them.
Our process with regard to editing the book was the same as it would have been were we not publishing via open access, so I think that one thing to note is that the book was the same high quality that it would have been if we had only published it in print format. I believe our chapter authors were delighted to have their work more readily available, as were we, as editors.
We have promoted the book through the IPPA network, primarily, although we also pushed out information through our social networks, like Twitter.
Definitely. So many times one works hard on a book and has an excellent resource that, for a variety of reasons, does not get into the hands of educators and researchers who might use the information. With open access format, that is no longer true.
Michael L. Wehmeyer is co-Editor with Margaret (Peggy) L. Kern of The Palgrave Handbook of Positive Education. He is Ross and Mariana Beach Distinguished Professor of Special Education; Chair of the Department of Special Education; and Director and Senior Scientist, Beach Center on Disability, at the University of Kansas, United States. Dr Wehmeyer is Publications Lead for the Education Division of the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA). He has published more than 450 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters and is an author or editor of 42 texts.