CoverIntroductionWellbeing and Its Importance in SchoolsWhat frameworks exist to promote school wellbeing?What is the best approach for my school/district?Valuable Tools and ConsiderationYour Call to ActionStudent Wellbeing InterventionsPositive Emotion Three Good ThingsCounting BlessingsEnvisioning Your Best Possible SelfUnderstanding HumorThree Funny ThingsOutdoor LearningBringing the Outside InBibliotherapyEngagementRecognizing and Utilizing Personal StrengthsARCS Model of CuriosityCarousel BrainstormingGenius HourPerspective Taking and Role-PlayArts IntegrationDrawing and Coloring TherapyCulturally-Enriching and Arts-Based Field TripsCulturally Responsive PracticesSocial Belonging InterventionEmotional Self-Regulation: RULER methodModeling Emotional Self-Regulation SkillsTeacher PraiseRelationshipsModeling Love, Kindness and ForgivenessActive Constructive RespondingDialogue JournalsSecret Strengths SpottingPeer Praise NotesActs of KindnessVolunteeringFast FriendsBuddy BenchMeaningEducating Students about Benefit AppraisalsGratitude LettersSavoring StrategiesTaking in the Good (HEAL)Mental Time TravelBrief Mindfulness ActivitiesMindful BellMindful BreathingBody Scan RelaxationMindful Walking/MovementFive Senses MindfulnessMindful PhotographyMindful Self-CompassionAccomplishmentFuture Thinking & When/Where PlansHope MapG-POWER Goal SettingEmbedded Self-Regulation StrategiesGrowth MindsetGrit and Deliberate PracticeDeveloping Students' Resilience and Coping SkillsHealth and VitalityHealthy Sleep HabitsClassroom Physical ActivityYogaCreative Playground EquipmentHealthy Body Image InterventionStudent-Led Health ProgramSchool-Led Interventions for Teachers and StaffSupporting Teacher AutonomyMindfulness TrainingCompassion TrainingHumor TrainingIncentivizing Physical ExerciseIndividual Interventions for School EmployeesPositive and Reflective JournalingSelf-Regulation and Coping StrategiesSelf-AffirmationSelf Compassion LetterDiscovering and Utilizing Character StrengthsJob CraftingMindfulnessAdditional Interventions to ConsiderDedicated Wellbeing SpacesIndividual Wellbeing Plans for School EmployeesOther ResourcesPROSPER

Active Constructive Responding

Keywords: Elementary Education, High school, Middle School

Active constructive responding encourages students to listen and respond to the successes of others in a positive way. Researchers have found there are four ways one can respond to the good news and positive events of others: active and passive destructive and active and passive constructive. Consider the model below regarding the four different ways you might respond to a student who just told you they earned a spot in the school play (adapted from Shankland & Rosset, 2017).

This image is a graph, with passive to active on the horizontal axis and destructive to constructive on the vertical axis.

One way to help students practice active constructive responding (ACR) is to have what Peterson (2013) called “but-free days.” Rather than pointing out the downsides of someone's good news by using the word “but,” you and your students could have an entire day devoted to avoiding this response and enjoying each other’s positive experiences. Encouraging your students to practice ACR will help them experience increased positive emotion, decreased loneliness, and improved feelings of trust, commitment, closeness and stability in peer relationships (Gable et al, 2004).

Grade Level:





20-30 minute introduction, practice time as needed


1. Introduce to the class the four types of responses they could use to react to "good news" someone has shared (active and passive destructive, passive and active constructive). See examples in the model below.

2. Share examples of each of the responses either via video clips or role play.

3. For younger students, it may be best to introduce only active constructive and what happens when we include "but" in our responses to point out the downsides of someone’s good news.

4. Have the students practice active constructive responding with their peers.

5. Throughout the school year, have dedicated “but-free” days where students are encouraged to practice active constructive responding throughout the day.

Does it work?

Though significant research has not been done on the impact of active constructive responding with children and adolescents, it has been used with the Geelong Grammar School’s positive education model and has been shown to improve student wellbeing and relationships (Norrish et al., 2013; Seligman et al., 2009). Gable and colleagues (2004) assessed the impact of active constructive responding on the interpersonal relationships of dating and married couples. Couples who felt their partner responded to their positive events in an active constructive way also experienced greater levels of commitment, trust, satisfaction and intimacy. All other response patterns (passive constructive, active destructive and passive destructive) were associated with negative trends in these measures. Active constructive responding was also associated with a reduction in relationship conflict. (Gable et al., 2004).


Gable, S. L., & Reis, H. T. (2010). Good news! Capitalizing on positive events in an interpersonal context. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol. 42, pp. 195–257). Academic Press.

Gable, S., Reix, E., Impett, E., & Asher, E. (2004). What do you do when things go right? The intrapersonal and interpersonal benefits of sharing positive events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 228–45.

Norrish, J. M., Williams, P.,O’Connor, M., & Robinson, J. (2013). An applied framework for positive education. International Journal of Wellbeing, 3(2), 147-161.

Peterson, C. (2013). Pursuing the good life: 100 reflections on positive psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Seligman, M., Ernst, R., Gillham,J., Reivich,K. & Linkins, M. (2009). Positive education: positive psychology and classroom interventions. Oxford Review of Education, 35(3), 293-311.

Shankland, R., & Rosset, E. (2017) Review of brief school-based positive psychological intervention: a taster for teachers and educators. Educational Psychology Review, 29, 363-392.


CC BY-NC: This work is released under a CC BY-NC license, which means that you are free to do with it as you please as long as you (1) properly attribute it and (2) do not use it for commercial gain.

End-of-Chapter Survey

: How would you rate the overall quality of this chapter?
  1. Very Low Quality
  2. Low Quality
  3. Moderate Quality
  4. High Quality
  5. Very High Quality
Comments will be automatically submitted when you navigate away from the page.
Like this? Endorse it!