Nourishing Compassion in Finnish Kindergarten Head Teachers: How Character Strength Training Influences Teachers' Other-Oriented Behavior

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Compassion refers to noticing, feeling and acting to alleviate suffering in others. Being one of the crucial socio-emotional and cultural skills, surprisingly little is known of early childhood education (ECE) teachers' compassionate behavior and their ability to teach it to children. Overall, research on compassion in early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings is scarce. However, existing studies show that compassion skills can be acquired through training, and a collective compassion capability can be cultivated by everyday practices. As part of the positive psychology movement, compassion can be viewed as one of the character strengths (Peterson and Seligman 2004), generic skills, or "soft skills" that are underlined in the latest curricula and pedagogical documents (OECD 2017). In our present study, 95 ECE head teachers participated in the interventions, the aim of which was promoting compassion, character strengths and a supportive organization culture. A classic controlled pre/post-measuring protocol was applied to monitor progress. Additionally, qualitative material was collected from 33 participants. The intervention participants showed a significant increase in their identification and usage of strengths and in creating a supportive organizational culture. Content analysis of the qualitative statements revealed three main themes, Caring professionalism, Warm presence and Positive feedback, evidencing strivings toward an emotionally and professionally supportive ECEC organization.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEarly Childhood Education Journal
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)163-176
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • Compassion
  • Early childhood education
  • Intervention
  • Character strengths
  • WORK
  • LOVE
  • 516 Educational sciences
  • 614 Theology

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