The Mini Master’s in Applied Positive Psychology, or MiniMAPP, is now entering its third year at Bloxham, and within that time has gone from strength to strength. The course is run by Cheryl Linton, Physics teacher and Housemistress of Merton, who over lockdown gained her Master’s degree in Positive Psychology. She designed this course as part of her dissertation, and then put it into action as soon as she was able.

The course includes various different elements, such as a happiness research project in which each pupil investigates the things which make them happy and then measures their happiness level following a series of interventions on themselves. Popular choices include increased exercise or spending more time practicing musical instruments, but Cheryl shares that the intervention she found most memorable was from a girl who chose to do a daily act of kindness. This ‘really boosted her and her happiness went off the charts.’ The pupils also write an essay on positive psychology, which means learning how to reference, investigate their strengths and design an academic poster discussing them, and present to the group on a book they have read about positive psychology. Cheryl was keen to interweave important skills for university with learning tailored to each pupil and led by them. The pupils log everything from the course in a scrapbook, which allows them to be as creative as they like and to record what they have discovered in a way which is meaningful and impactful to them.

We sat down to chat with four of last year’s cohort, Tom, Jenna, Caitlin and Rachel, to find out what they liked about the course and how understanding more about positive psychology has impacted their daily lives.

What made you choose this course over any of the other options available in Sixth Form?

Tom: I’m quite interested in psychology, and I didn’t take it as a choice at A Level, so I thought this would be a great way to explore this interest through an extracurricular opportunity.

Caitlin: I found the introduction to it which we were all given fascinating and thought it would be something I’d like to do. I’m also doing an EPQ at the same time and this combination has worked very well for me.

Rachel: I take Psychology A Level and I was expecting this to be quite similar, but it turns out it really isn’t! It’s interesting to see another side of Psychology. The A Level is more focused on things like memory, social influence and attachment, but this course is about applying lessons from psychology to your personal life which is really nice.

Jenna: I want to do Psychology at university and because I don’t do it as an A Level I wanted to have something like this on my personal statement as it will make me stand out from other candidates. I’d heard from students in the year above that it was really good and they were right – I really enjoyed it! We honed a lot of skills, like referencing and creating academic posters, which will really benefit us when applying to university and beyond.

What is the most interesting thing you learned?

Tom: I think about the importance of asking open questions. These are helpful because people don’t have to respond with just a yes or no, so you can discover more about them.

Caitlin: Probably about using your strengths to your advantage, and about setting out plans for yourself and utilising your strengths to reach your goals. I definitely found out about strengths I hadn’t known I had. We had to do a test to see what our strengths were and one of mine was hope. I didn’t really think I was an optimistic person but that was on there. In the plan which I have set out for myself, I’ve tried to use hope in my life more.

Rachel: I enjoyed the happiness module because it was happening right at the end of term when everything was very busy, so just to step out of that mindset and think about what makes me happy and purposely go back to that was a great balance alongside the stress of A Levels.

Jenna: I think the most interesting thing for me was the three good things task that we did where in the evening you had to write down three good things that had happened in the day. Sometimes you feel drowned out by all the bad things that have happened, but this reminds you that there’s good in every day and makes you feel more hopeful.

Did the things you learned in the course influence the way you do things day to day? If so, in what ways?

Tom: It helped me to get the role of a peer listener because thanks to the positive psychology course, I picked up a lot of skills which have helped me in this post. It’s good to be able to talk to people and to manage things maturely when you need to.

Caitlin: I use it to think a bit more positively about things which happen in my life and to move forward when things haven’t gone the way I wanted them to.

Rachel: All the way through it was very reflective, so we could relate our learning to our own lives. In the middle of a stressful day, I try to take a moment to think about being happy. Also, improving my skills in essay writing and referencing is something I’ve used a lot in A Levels and will use beyond.

Jenna: I think what I’ve learned from it is that writing goals is really important. I’ve kept going with that since finishing the course. When a goal is on paper and you can see it, it’s more inspiring and that gives me more drive to want to achieve things and to work harder.

Would you recommend this course to other students?

Tom: Yes, definitely. One part of the course involved writing essays about how we could improve our day to day lives. Mine was based on my ADHD diagnosis and the essay helped me navigate through things I could do to help my concentration. It was very beneficial both academically and socially.

Caitlin: Yes, because you learn very useful transferable skills which can help you in all aspects of your life.

Rachel: I think definitely because it has such a positive impact on the rest of your life. I’ll always remember the benefits that I’ve learned here about writing goals and being grateful. We’ve learned some things which will be really important from here on in.

Jenna: I definitely would because I think it looks really great on a uni application. I think we’re the only school which does this course at the moment and the work that we do in it varies a lot. We’re not just writing essays, we’re reading books, we’re doing charts to rank how we’re feeling and so on. It’s definitely very interesting.