Course Syllabus


Harvard University
PsycE-1504: The Science and Application of Positive Psychology
Fall 2015

Lab and Lecture: Monday- 11:10-1:10
1 Story Street, Room 304

                         Sections: scheduled weekly


Teaching Team

Dr. Stephanie Peabody, Psy.D., Neuropsychologist:

Leslie Williamson (TA):

Office Hours: Available by appointment


 Download Syllabus Fall 2015

Course Objectives

This course provides an introduction to the science related to happiness, well-being, flourishing and the positive aspects of human experience. Students will gain an understanding of what contributes to well-being and how to build the enabling conditions of a life worth living. Each week will offer students an opportunity to explore the concepts (e.g., biological, psychological, social, emotional), the research behind the concepts, and evidence-based experiential activities that enhance well-being.  Students will engage in a detailed analysis and evidence-based positivity change process utilizing validated questionnaires and positive psychology and well-being enhancing interventions.


Expected Student Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the aim and scope of positive psychology and implications to well-being and flourishing;
  • Describe the implications of the science and application of positive psychology to biological, psychological, social and emotional outcomes;
  • Identify research that supports the principles, strategies, tools and skills of positive psychology;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the dimensions of happiness/subjective well-being and the application to their lives;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of resiliency in relation to well-being and flourishing;
  • Utilize their own strengths and virtues and employ strategies to increase their happiness, overall quality of life and well-being;
  • Integrate and apply core concepts of positive psychology and resiliency factors into their own lives and professional practice;
  • Develop a toolkit of measures and activities for putting positive psychology scientific findings, theories and tools into real-world practice.


Weekly Course Format

Each week will include a variety of empirically-based readings, lectures, discussions, measures and activities to explore key elements of the week’s topic. Students will get the most out of the course if they come to class each week having completed the readings and measures, and then continue throughout the week to engage in related activities and discussions.

Each week expect to participate in a variety of activities which will include:

  • Completing several readings and/or watching short videos (usually less than 20 minutes in length) on the week’s topic;
  • Attending weekly lecture (the weekly scheduled class time);
  • Attending weekly section which will describe measures and activities related to the week’s topic(s). You should expect to complete these before the next scheduled class;
  • Participating in the online discussion board about topics related to the weekly content;
  • Taking a weekly quiz, writing reflections (4 X during the course), as well as completing a multi-step final project that unfolds throughout the semester.


Course Policies and Expectations

The classes (lecture,sections and discussion boards) are available on a distance platform and recorded/available for students to watch/participate on when they can’t attend live or want a review.

Undergraduate and graduate students are required to attend or watch videos of the lecture each week. All students taking the course for credit are also required to attend or watch weekly sections, as well as complete all of the assignments summarized in the table below in order to pass the course.

This course is purposefully designed to build on each week’s content and activities. The first three weeks have a great deal of introductory content and activities. For students who choose to enroll after the course has started, be advised. It will be very difficult to catch up and get the most out of the course.


Assignments and Grading Procedures

The typical assignments are outlined below. If due to a handicap or disability you require an alternate assessment path that differs from the following, contact Any accommodations have to be approved by the University’s disability services office PRIOR to the start of the course.

Grading is outlined in the following table.


 Undergraduate Students



Graduate Students


Class Participation (complete all assigned readings; attend all classes and sections and complete weekly content-related self-assessments/measures; participate on weekly discussion boards)


Class Participation (complete all assigned readings; attend all classes and sections and complete weekly content-related self-assessments/measures; participate on weekly discussion boards - summarize at least 1 group discussion topic)


Complete one intervention template to be shared with the class at the end of the term (model provided).









 Reflection Assignments (4)


Reflection Assignments (4)


Weekly Graded Quizzes



Weekly Graded Quizzes



Positive Psychology Project




Positive Psychology Project










  1. Weekly Quizzes (15%)
    There will be weekly graded quizzes throughout the semester on key concepts presented in the readings and lectures. Students will have the opportunity to retake the quizzes to increase their score and understanding of the


  1. Experiential Exercise Reflections(30%)

Students are required to complete experiential positive psychology questionnaires, activities and/or experiments throughout the semester with the goal being to apply the material of the course to their lives. A 1-2 page, typed reflection summary paper will be written about your experience with the exercises and submitted 4 times during the semester (end of Week 4, 6, 11, 15). The ultimate goal is for students to experience the positive psychology construct first hand through the exercises, self-reflect in a meaningful way and, as a result, gain insight into the mechanisms and processes of well-being and flourishing. 


  1. Class Participation (40%)

Students are expected to complete all required reading/viewing and “attend” weekly lectures and sections (live or watch recorded).

 In week 4, students will be placed in groups and required to post on their group’s designated discussion board for the remainder of the course. Topics will continue for two-three weeks each and focus on related readings, lecture and/or experiential activities. The purpose of this activity is for students to contribute their thinking and experiences towards the classes’ collective understanding and appreciation of the various concepts covered. Students will not be able to contribute after a discussion board’s ending period.

Students will also be expected to actively participate in screening measures and related activities presented in the weekly sections and report out on their experiences in class, on the discussion boards and reflection assignments. Each week typically there will be at least two validated questionnaires offered in conjunction with the week’s topic (e.g., PERMA, Authentic Happiness Scale, Meaning in Life Questionnaire). Students will be asked to complete these measures as an introduction to the many different tools available for screening factors of well-being, as well as an opportunity to assess their usefulness in the student’s personal/professional practice. Screening results will be anonymous, but students will be required to provide proof of completion.

The first assignments related to participation are labeled Assignment Zero. They should be completed PRIOR to the first class on August 31.

  • Complete a personal profile on the course website.
  • Throughout the course, students will be expected to cite all references in APA format. Please complete a mandatory self-check ungraded quiz that covers the most common citations students will likely have to use in the course.
  • Complete a short survey to provide valuable demographic and background information about you that will help the instructors best meet the needs of the class this term.
  • Complete a baseline questionnaire on health and well-being. You will take this questionnaire again in the middle of the term and again at the end.


  1. Positive Psychology Final Project (15%) This is a well-being project that will require students to first assess the current state of their well-being using a specific screening measure. Then, to choose a well-being goal(s) to pursue over a period of time (up to two weeks). Students will use an evidence-based intervention(s) that has been introduced during the course to help them achieve their goal(s). Finally, a post-intervention validated well-being questionnaire will be taken and a synthesis of the whole process, including results, will be submitted at the end of the course. 


Additional Grading Information

  • Late Policy: 5 points will be deducted for work submitted more than one day late; 10 points for work submitted more than one week late (you must contact the TA or instructor IN ADVANCE, if you anticipate your work will be more than one day late)

Graduate Students

There will be additional expectations related to course elements described above (i.e., synthesizing group discussions; completing an intervention template to be shared with the class.

Non Credit Students 

While Non-Credit students are encouraged to participate in all of the course content, they are not allowed to submit a final project.


Academic Integrity

Academic integrity, including avoiding plagiarism, is critically important. Each student is responsible for being familiar with the standards and policies outlined in the Harvard Extension School’s Student Responsibilities ( It is the responsibility of the student to be aware of, and comply with, these policies and standards. In accordance with Harvard Extension School’s policy on academic misconduct, violations of standards of academic conduct will be sanctioned by penalties ranging from grade reduction or failure on an assignment; grade reduction or failure of a course; up to dismissal from the school, depending on the nature and context of any infraction.


Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Students needing academic adjustments or accommodations should visit the following link to learn more about the Harvard Extension School policies:



Course Summary:

Date Details Due