How Children with Learning Difficulties Perceive Happiness in School and Learning

By Deirdré Krüger and May Naude.

Published by The International Journal of Diversity in Education

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

The purpose of this qualitative study is to develop a greater understanding of the experience of happiness as it is perceived by children with learning difficulties. The paradigmatic point of departure is positive psychology, which forms part of the strength-based perspective. Three boys and three girls with learning difficulties, aged between 10 and 12 years, were purposefully selected on the basis of revealing high levels of happiness. The empirical research consisted of a group encounter and individual interviews directly after the group encounter. The group encounter induced a happy mood by playing the game “Funny Ha Ha” (© Upstart 1996), which stimulates laughter, and elevated the participants’ moods, and stimulated recall of happy memories. Data was collected through metaphors and happy stories obtained during individual encounters with the participants. Relatively few distinct emotions associated with happiness were identified. Both active and passive dimensions of happiness were highlighted in the happy stories. None of the participants identified aspects of flow or the engaged life, suggesting that learning is not central to their happiness at school. The importance of friends in the pursuit of happiness was frequently highlighted and attention was drawn to the negative impact of loneliness. Happiness appeared to be understood as taking the form of the pleasant and meaningful life, and there was a conspicuous absence of the engaged life.

Keywords: Happiness, Learning Difficulties, Positive Psychology, Strength-based Perspective, Positive Emotions

The International Journal of Diversity in Education, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp.49-60. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 345.514KB).

Assoc. Prof. Deirdré Krüger

Associate Professor, Further Teacher Education, School of Education, College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa

Deirdré Krüger is a registered educational psychologist and an associate professor at the University of South Africa.

May Naude

Educational Psychologist, Private Practice, White River, Mpumalanga, South Africa

May Naude is a registered educational psychologist.