Empowerment and Learned Hopefulness – Constructs and Paths to Student’s Well-Being? Literature Review and Proposed Guidelines05 settembre 2018 -
Contributo selezionato da Filodiritto tra quelli pubblicati nei Proceedings “International Conference Beliefs and Behaviours in Education and Culture - 2016”
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Contribution selected by Filodiritto among those published in the Proceedings “International Conference Beliefs and Behaviours in Education and Culture - 2016”
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4. Review of the studies and comments
The main aim of the article is to review the literature on constructs of empowerment and learned hopefulness in the field of social sciences in order to utline information related to the definition, implementation and evaluation of the constructs. The articles have been gathered using as key words empowerment, psychological empowerment, hope, learned hopefulness, dimensions, evaluation, education, within the scientific data bases Sage publications and Ebsco. There have been delineated four needs related to the constructs of empowerment and learned hopefulness: to clarify both upon the constructs’ defining characteristics and upon the qualitative and quantitative evaluation methods, to extend the interventions based on enhancing empowerment from disadvanced groups to all students, and particular to Romanian students in order to sustain their adaptation to global education requirements.
When discussing the problem of personal power and empowerment the debates in the scientific literature have stated the importance of the construct, as a solution to overcome Seligman’s (1976)  learned helplessness, but there is no convergence about the explanations at scientific level.
Ever since Rappaport’s  definition (1984) there have been multiple attempts to analyse the construct of empowerment (, , ), but it could not be achieved convergence of views towards one way of explanation at scientific level.
In this frame of reference within the present article there have been emphasised, starting from some elements of difficulty related to the construct of empowerment and learned hopefulness, some needs related to its examination, implementation and evaluation in social settings in general, and future implementation in educational settings.
Although the construct of empowerment is highlighted by the literature as being relevant to the wellbeing of the individual, there is no agreement on the definition and analysis of its dimensions.
The intervention based on empowerment is centred on the referral of danger of individual victimization, on qualitative analysis tools and, in few cases, on quantitative analysis tools; this makes it difficult to establish the objective impact of the empowerment intervention and its results, and to extrapolate them to larger groups of individuals.
Studies highlighting ways to develop empowerment are relatively limited and strongly determined by the specific characteristics of the group which they addressed to and by the way of how the helplessness of that group is operationalized.
The core objective of the present article is to argue over four needs in approaching with more clearness the construct of empowerment and related concepts like hope and learned hopefulness.
These ideas refer to the need to clarify more among the concepts, the need to gather and emphasise on the means of evaluation of empowerment construct both using qualitative and quantitative methods, the need to implement trainings based on enhancing Romanian students’ empowerment and finally the need to expand empowerment trainings to larger groups not only to disadvantaged ones, mainly among students.
4. Review of the studies and comments
There have been used the following words to gather articles from the international data bases Sage publications and Ebsco: empowerment, psychological empowerment, hope, learned hopefulness, dimensions, evaluation, education.
As empowerment was seen as a dimension located on the way to developing hope it is still unclear if empowerment is the drive for learned hopefulness or it emerges from it on the way to overrun learned helplessness [5, p. 73]. Anyway, it is expected that people feeling hopeful also show psychological empowerment as a sense of control over their life. [5, p. 73].
Although the term empowerment is used with a high frequency since the 70s, there were few attempts to define the construct, as evidenced in the literature by various authors. This happened mostly because of the lack of consensus among the authors.
Sally Rogers (, ), when starting to develop a quantitative analysis tool of empowerment for people with mental illness highlights the lack of conceptual consensus and concern for the clear delineation of the construct dimensions. Aslop, Bertelsen and Holland (2006)  aim to achieve a comprehensive analysis of the construct empowerment, noting that the missing link to a better approach of the construct is a coherent approach.
Within the 80’s Rappaport  was concerned to emphasise the main characters of defining the concept of empowerment, continuing Kieffer’s  ideas related to its processual dimension. In this regard he concluded that empowerment should also be considered as a process oriented towards gaining control over self and environment.
Besides the lack of a clear definition of the construct, there is, also, an overlapping terminology, the term empowerment is used both as result or condition and also for the process of reaching the state of control over our own lives . Also, since 2001 David Fetterman  introduces the term of empowerment-based assessment, appreciated as a very good way of assessing complex community programs. But this use of the term increases furthermore the ambiguity of the construct dimensions.
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