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Shiny happy students.

EVERYONE, IT SEEMS, WANTS TO KNOW HOW to lead a happy life. Students at Harvard have the chance to learn.

The university offers Psychology 1504, or "Positive Psychology," which involves all the exams, papers, and studying that pretty much any college coursework entails. This class also helps students improve their own lives.

When students learn about Robert Emmons' research on the importance of expressing gratitude, they begin to keep gratitude journals. And when they study Amy Wrzesniewski's work on finding a career calling, they work to identify their own callings.

Students don't get graded on such practices, but are encouraged to continue them for life. That connection between the academic and the personal has helped make "Positive Psychology" Harvard's most popular course, according to Tal Ben-Shahar, the professor who has been teaching it for two years. Harvard's offering is one of several around the country that have grown out of the work of Martin E.P. Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the best-selling book Learned Optimism.

While "Positive Psych" isn't typical textbook stuff, it has a significant impact: In one round of course evaluations at Harvard, 23 percent of students said that "Positive Psychology" changed their lives for the better. "They stop taking the good things in their lives for granted," says Ben-Shahar.

Happy students? Administrators can't complain about that.
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Title Annotation:COURSE CATALOG
Author:Fliegler, Caryn Meyers
Publication:University Business
Date:Jul 1, 2006
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