Beyond smiling: The evaluation of a positive psychological intervention aimed at student happiness

L.E. van Zyl, S. Rothmann Sr.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this study was to develop and evaluate a positive psychological intervention (PPI) aimed at increasing happiness of students in a tertiary educational institution. A convenience sample (n = 20) was drawn from the entire population of academic third year students in the field of Industrial/ Organisational psychology (n = 109). The majority of the participants were Sesotho speaking (45%), black (95%), female (90%), and 21 years of age (45%). A single group pre-, post-, and post-post-test design was used. The PPI stretched across eight months and was presented in two phases: (a) a three day self-development workshop and (b) six sessions of individual coaching. The intervention focused on facilitating development on two levels, namely a psychological (engagement, meaning, person-environment fit, autonomy, competence, relatedness and authenticity), and emotional (pleasure, affect balance and life satisfaction) level. Data were collected using the Satisfaction with Life Scale, Positive and Negative Affect Scale, Orientations to Happiness Questionnaire, Basic Psychological Needs Scale, the Authentic Self Inventory and Person-Environment Fit scale. The results indicated that the overall happiness of a student increased through developing individuals on both an emotional and psychological level. The PPI affected all the aspects conceptualised in this study, except for two components of authenticity. Therefore, a multi-dimensional approach towards PPIs aimed at happiness of students in a tertiary educational environment may contribute to happy students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-384
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Psychology in Africa
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Coaching
  • Happiness
  • Positive psychological intervention
  • Positive psychology
  • Tertiary education


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