Exploring and Embracing Student Strengths

   Exploring and Embracing Student Strengths

By: Hayley Johnson

^Donald Clifton developed this intensive online assessment that depicts your talents and successful qualities. He provides a hearty description of 34 unique strengths that the assessment may report for you (ex: achiever, adaptability, harmony, empathy). This assessment will cost each person who takes it about $20 and approx. 30-40 minutes of their time.

  • How can we determine and engage our students’ strengths when we might not have time/money to have each of them take the Clifton strength-finders assessment?

Identifying students’ strengths:

  1. A class survey– use a paper survey or other online survey generators to ask personal and extensive questions related to strength and interest.
  2. Story prompts– Give students prompts for personal narratives that can underlay certain strengths (ex: Describe a situation in which you felt like a leader and managed a project/situation, The day I was most proud of myself was…, If I had one day to help someone, I would…, etc.).
  3. Identity project– Students have a day (or more) to prepare a presentation on themselves, their family, interests, strengths, personal goals, anything!
  4. Observation– Teachers should have plenty of time in which they can observe students in individual and group activities and identify students’ strengths.


WHY we should focus on strengths:

“A gentle shift in mindset and lens through which we look at kids”

“How many kids go through our school system without being valued for their strengths, and without be acknowledged for who they are”

“If they know that they are valued everyday for what they come to school with, for who they are, you have that connection and relationship”

“Need to be focusing on human well-being and human flourishing”

“When people spend a small amount in an area of strength, they are more engaged, less anxious, less stressed, and happier”

“Increase in over 36% in performance when you focus on strengths, versus a decrease in almost 27% in performance when you focus of weaknesses”

EXPLORE strengths in a science classroom:

Every strength can have a place in a science classroom. Here are some examples:

Couragous—The person who presents ideas and findings to the class after a group analyzes and interprets a text/experiment/data

Creative—Can be responsible for designing the poster/website/model

Innovative—Fuels the ideas for experimental design, helps creative student design models

Supportive—Encourages other classmates and group members during a tough problem, helps individual students who are struggling to understand a concept and explains concepts/ideas to them

Kind-hearted—May have a self-designed project to support and advocate for animal rights or sustainability

***ANY strength you may discover in your students can have its own powerful influence on the classroom dynamic and on the students’ learning***

Important terms:

Encourage, acknowledge, support, discover, power, influence, strength, value, engage

Image result for what is cliftonstrengths


  1. Hayley,
    I really enjoyed your blog! I thought you did a good job taking about strengths in the blog. I liked that you talked about how strengths help create a better learning environment for the students. They are able to use their strengths to excel in the classroom. I also enjoyed the many quotes you added to your post. I thought they did a good job helping solidify what you were trying to get across. I know that strengths need to be the main focus in the classroom, but how will you use students weaknesses to help them grow?

  2. Hayley–

    I think it’s a great idea to spend some time with our strengths! It’s all good and well to want to fix and focus on weaknesses, but you can’t pour out of an empty cup, so if you try and do this continuously without ever embracing what you’re good at then you’re bound to fail. Great post!


  3. Hayley,
    I love the idea of using story prompts to find student strengths! I never would have thought of doing something like that, but now it brings me back to having to describe myself for scholarships, resumes, or to join specific groups! What kind of ways will you use your strengths in your classroom, outside of the two that you had previously responded about?

  4. Hayley,
    I really liked the illustration you added at the end of your post. I believe it is critical to develop strengths, rather than improve weaknesses. If you look hard enough, you can find a flaw in almost anything. However, it isn’t all that difficult to find something good with everything, either. As educators, it is important for us to find our students strengths and help to develop them. We should not look for their weaknesses.

    The strategies you provided for determining students’ strengths are very effective, I believe. Is there one in particular that you believe to be more effective than the others in determining student strengths?

  5. Hayley,
    I also used the TEDx Talk by Chris Wejr! I felt it was so great at communicating why knowing your students strengths and interests is so important in helping reach them as both students and people. I really like how you picked out a few strengths that you felt were important for science students!
    I’m curious about what your strengths were and how you think your strengths impact your teaching?

    • Shay-
      Yes! I was looking through articles that I found on google and found one with that awesome TedTalk and watched the whole thing! Every other thing he said was a great statement about embracing and empowering strengths and so many of the things will translate effectively in our future classrooms. My main strengths were harmony and empathy which I think will do great things for me and my teaching. Harmony will be useful in classroom management and helping students feel as if they have a safe classroom environment for them to explore and engage their strengths. Thanks for the comment!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.