Motivation and emotion/Book/2021/Academic resilience

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Academic resilience:
What is academic resilience, why does it matter, and how can it be enhanced?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Figure 1: Depiction of resilience

Why are some students more impaired by adversities, setbacks, and pressures than others? Why do some students remain on a downward trajectory of underperformance while others harness the challenge and bounce back? The answer lies in academic resilience.

Resilience in simple terms reflects the ability to positively adapt in the face of difficult experiences or traumatic circumstances. It is a widely research psychological concept which can be applied in range of contexts, including educational. Academic resilience refers to the ability to achieve educational success despite significant environmental adversities (Cassidy, 2015).

The 5-C model of academic resilience proposes five individual level psychological correlates of academic resilience, which then build enjoyment of school, self-esteem, and class participation. Rojas (2015) broadly categorises a range of influencing risk and protective factors as pertaining to family environment, school climate, and difficulties arising from poverty. Research has identified numerous positive psychological and social benefits of academic resilience including self-efficacy, coping, and academic achievement.

Academic resilience can be enhanced through promoting related factors, such as motivation and engagement. The motivation and engagement model outlines the thoughts, feelings and behaviours of motivation and engagement in students and outlines practical applications to foster or support these factors. Implementing self-regulated learning strategies has shown improvements in academic resilience, which is facilitated by encouraging control and responsibility over one's learning. Moreover, student-educator focussed classroom interventions have proven to be advantageous, such as the project for enhancing effective learning (PEEL).

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Focus questions
  • What is academic resilience?
  • What are the factors affecting academic resilience?
  • Why does academic resilience matter?
  • How can academic resilience be enhanced?

What is academic resilience?[edit | edit source]

"In an academic context, resilience is characterised by those students that present with the capacity to reverse academic misfortune and failure and succeed" (Cassidy, 2016, p. 2).

Resilience[edit | edit source]

Psychological resilience is a construct which refers to the ability to positively adapt despite experiencing adversity or traumatic experiences (Luthar et al., 2014). Research has identified numerous types of resilience which include emotional, physical, external, and academic resilience (Luthar et al., 2014). Resilience research has progressed significantly since the 1970's and made many refinements and contextualisations across psychological disciplines, including education psychology, positive psychology and learning (Coronado-Hijón, 2017). Importantly, resilience is not inherent - rather it consists of behaviours, thoughts, and actions which can be developed to some extent. It is a dynamic process which consists of interrelated factors (Cohen, 2013; Coronado-Hijhon, 2017).

Academic resilience[edit | edit source]

Resilience can be applied in a number of settings, including educational. Academic resilience can be defined as the likelihood or ability to achieve educational success despite adversity (Cassidy, 2016). Academic resilience is present when an individual is faced with significant adversity or a threat alongside evident achievement or positive adaptation irrespective of that adversity or threat (Toland & Carrigan, 2011). Academic buoyancy is a neighbouring concept, which refers to resilience in the face of challenges or pressures that are part of everyday life (Beale, 2020). For example, when facing exam pressure. Academic resilience pertains more to chronic adversities which are reflected in traditional resilience research, such as poverty (Cassidy, 2015). Thus, the differences between these concepts are the severity of both adversity and possible negative academic consequences (Beale, 2020).

What are the factors affecting academic resilience?[edit | edit source]

Academic resilience can be positively or negatively influenced by individual, social, and environmental factors. Research has identified a multitude of factors which may influence students' and the likelihood of being academically resilient. Identifying these factors can assist when establishing practical applications and recommendations to foster or support academic resilience in students.

Figure 2. Diagram of the 5-C model of academic resilience

5-C model of academic resilience[edit | edit source]

The 5-C model of academic resilience, proposed by Martin and Marsh (2006), was created to identify the psychological correlates of academic resilience. These psychological correlates operate at an individual level. The model encompasses five protective psychological factors which correlate with academic resilience, which are: confidence (self-efficacy), coordination (planning), control, composure (low anxiety) and commitment (persistence) (see figure 2). Enjoyment of school, class participation, and overall self-esteem are identified as outcomes of academic resilience (Martin & Marsh, 2006). Of the five factors, anxiety and self-efficacy are the strongest predictors, where low anxiety and high self-efficacy most strongly predict academic resilience.

Risk and protective factors[edit | edit source]

Despite the presence of adversities, many students overcome a number of risk factors and proceed to succeed in their studies (Foster, 2013). Influencing factors are wide ranging and may include individual, family, school environment and socioeconomic factors which either negatively impact or foster academic resilience (Cappella & Weinstein, 2001). Risk factors refer to measurable predictors of an adverse outcome and can be categorised as internal or external. The latter refers to factors which influence peoples physical environment, such as poverty. The former refers to factors which do not explicitly influence peoples physical environment, such as psychological disorders or decisions to engage in certain behaviours (Foster, 2013). Protective factors refer to influences which buffer reactions to both internal and external environmental stressors and provide resources to aid effective development. External protective factors refer to supports from available individuals, such as teachers. Whereas internal protective factors are personal traits or characteristics, such as self-efficacy and internal locus of control (Foster, 2013). Rojas (2015) identified a range of risk and protective factors (see Table 1).

Table 1.

Academic resilience risk and protective factors (Rojas, 2015)

Environmental and social risk factors Environmental and social protective factors Individual level protective factors
Poverty Low family stress Optimism
Family dysfunction Positive child relationship Empathy
Family conflict Positive parenting skills Self-esteem
Lower economic status Child attachment Direction or mission
Lack of social support Role models Determination or perseverance
Marital conflict High expectations Motivation
Domestic violence Family support and guidance Autonomy
Harsh discipline Opportunities for meaningful family involvement Sense of purpose
Unsupportive parents Respectful communication Problem-solving or critical thinking skills
Lack of positive parenting skills Higher economic status Internal locus of control
Case Study 1 - Flynn

Flynn is a 18-year-old who lives with his mother and father in low socioeconomic area. His parents do not show any active interest in his education or future career and argue a lot at home. Flynn describes his relationship with his parents as ‘distant’. At school he often does not show up to classes or turn in assignments, and exhibits a lack of optimism, self-esteem, and perseverance. Consequently, his academic performance was deemed below average by his educators.

Flynn can be defined as a non-academically resilient student due to a lack of protective factors. These include low family stress, positive parent-child relationship, positive child attachment, family support and guidance, and high socioeconomic status.

School climate[edit | edit source]

School environments play a critical role in fostering resilience alongside emotional, social, physical and cognitive development (Foster, 2013). School has the ability to provide a number of protective factors that buffer against academic failure, however, may also provide further adversities which increase the likelihood of failure (Borman & Overman, 2004). Protective factors may include providing support which may be lacking in a family context, listening without judgement, and providing structure and expectations (Foster, 2013). Importantly, these factors are reliant on supportive educators. Positive student-teacher relationships founded on trust have the ability to promote resilience and increase academic achievement (Foster, 2013). It is noteworthy that student relationships with peers, together with educators, can also positively influence resilience (Wasonga et al., 2003). Concurrently, involvement in school and extracurricular activities are protective external factors that assist in building resilience, identification with educational institution, and interpersonal connections (Foster, 2013).

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Which of the following is not a risk factor of academic resilience?

Marital conflict
Harsh discipline
Role Models
Family dysfunction

Why does academic resilience matter?[edit | edit source]

Resilience is a desirable and advantageous human characteristic which can positively influence aspects of health, performance, and overall wellbeing (Cassidy, 2016). It has been linked to a number of advantageous traits, behaviours and outcomes such as self-efficacy, effective coping, and academic achievement.

Self-efficacy[edit | edit source]

Self-Efficacy, a concept originally proposed by Albert Bandura, refers to the perception of one's capabilities and has been identified as a valuable predictor across a wide range of psychological domains (Cassidy, 2015). Self-efficacy is necessary for meeting challenges and successfully completing tasks (Beale, 2020). Research which has examined the relationship between self-efficacy and academic resilience has shown high levels of academic self-efficacy is a positive predictor of academic resilience (Cassidy, 2015). What is more, academic self-efficacy and academic resilience have been identified as mediators of academic performance (Sadoughi, 2017).

Figure 3. Depiction of academic achievement which is a product of high academic resilience

The importance of self-efficacy is students is demonstrated in a study conducted by Hamill (2006). Adolescents enrolled in a psychology class were measured on adversity and a number of dimensions including self-efficacy and coping mechanisms. Procedures involved questionnaires and two tasks, an unsolvable anagram and storytelling task. Results identified four types of students: resilient, competent, maladaptive, and low competence/adversity. Resilient and competent students scored similarly regarding self-efficacy and coping mechanisms, which were the most important characteristics differentiating groups. The overall finding was that self-efficacy is prevalent in competent adolescents who also face adversity. Moreover, it demonstrates that those who face adversity can positively adapt, which ultimately characterises resilience (Hamill, 2006). Notably, there is a lack of research on what students with high self-efficacy actually do which contribute to success in their studies (Cassidy, 2015).

Coping[edit | edit source]

Coping refers to the cognitive and behavioural efforts which manage demands or stressors to ultimately maintain positive adaptation (Tamannaeifar & Shahmirzaei, 2019). Coping is a self-regulatory process which is interrelated with resilience. There are two types of coping: problem-focused and emotion-focused coping (Hamill, 2003). Problem-focused coping refers to the use purposeful and practical attempts to control the stressor. For example, seeking solutions or attempting to remove the stressor. Emotion-focused coping refers to dealing with stressors through attaining optimal negative emotion regulation. For example, support seeking or distraction (Meneghel et al., 2019).

Findings across literature find support for resilience as a significant predictor of coping ability in academic settings, particularly in university students (McLafferty et al., 2012). Specifically, problem-focused coping is positively correlated with academic resilience and emotion-focused coping is negatively correlated with academic resilience (Tamannaeifar & Shahmirzaei, 2019). These findings conclude resilience has an impact on coping style. Alike, Menghel et al. (2019) report the same correlations between both coping styles alongside a positive correlation with an additional meaning-focused copying style, which is characterised by cognitive strategies which regulate positive emotions. This style of coping involves positively framing the stressor as a challenge through harnessing beliefs, values, and goals, to sustain coping (Ortego-Maldonado & Salanova, 2018).

Academic achievement[edit | edit source]

Academic achievement is the ultimate consequence of academic resilience. That is, positive adaption to aversive circumstances will result in rewarding academic outcomes. This construct is largely measured by tangible academic grades including percentages, GPA’s, rankings and scores ranging from pass to high distinction (Martin & Marsh, 2009). There is consistent evidence that resilience is positively correlated with academic achievement. In a study of international undergraduates both resilience and self-esteem were significant predictors of academic achievement. Specifically, the resilience-performance relationship was represented by a range of factors all of which relate to positive adaptation and coping ability (Kwek et al., 2013). Regarding performance in at-risk individuals, a study of at risk youth found a positive correlation between resilience and academic performance, measured via grade point average (GPA). However, achievement was associated with different resilience factors among the three groups. This indicates that resilience is not a uniformly acting characteristic and which presents implications from a practical perspective (Novotný & Kremenkova, 2016).

However, multiple studies support an indirect relationship between resilience and academic achievement. A university sample study revealed that academic resilience is indirectly related to academic performance, which is mediated by academic satisfaction. This suggests cognitive attitudes, namely satisfaction, may be a key antecedent of academic achievement (Menghel et al., 2019). Alike, a secondary education study determined school engagement is a mediating factor between resilience and academic achievement (Rodriguez-Fernandez et al., 2018). Taken together, these indirect relationships may suggest supplementary factors like satisfaction and engagement may be superior predictors of academic achievement than resilience alone.

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Allison is in the final semester of her undergraduate degree and has three upcoming exams. She is feeling overwhelmed and decides to call a family member for some support. Which coping style is she using?

Problem-focused coping
Meaning-focused coping
Emotion-focused coping

How can we enhance academic resilience?[edit | edit source]

Academic resilience can be promoted, rather than fixed, through focussing on enhancing a range of factors. Fostering resilience is important not only because it is how people deal with challenges and adversities, but also because it promotes communication, problem-solving, and decision-making skills (Rojas, 2015).

Figure 4: The motivation and engagement model

Motivation and engagement[edit | edit source]

The motivation and engagement model, proposed by Martin (2014), aims to reflect the thoughts, feelings, and behaviours underpinning motivation and engagement in students. Accordingly, it provides a framework for practical methods to enhance or support these factors within classroom and counselling contexts. Both motivation and engagement play a role in academic resilience, in fact, all factors within the model present significant correlations (Martin & Marsh, 2006). Lack of motivation or engagement may result in loss of academic progress or success (Martin, 2002). Essentially, enhancing motivation and engagement may in turn enhance academic resilience.

11 key factors were identified which comprise ‘boosters’, ‘mufflers’ and ‘guzzlers’ (see figure 4). These refer to factors which enhance, impede, or reduce motivation and engagement respectively. It is proposed that student-level protective and risk factors determine boosters, mufflers, and guzzlers. Students high on boosters and low on mufflers and guzzlers are motivated and engaged, while the opposite is true for unmotivated and unengaged students. Promoting boosters and reducing mufflers and guzzlers will facilitate both motivation and engagement, and subsequently academic resilience (Martin, 2002; Martin, 2014) Practically, this entails altering educators messages, student expectations, structure of learning, feedback, classroom goals, and assessment. The use of these directions will depend on the salience of these factors. Individual students or the overall classroom climate can be assessed using the proposed model (Martin, 2002; Martin, 2014).

Table 2.

Strategies to improve factors within the motivation and engagement model (Martin, 2014; Martin, 2002)

Self-belief Breaking school work into smaller components, individualising tasks, reframing success in terms of mastery, personal bests, and improvement and addressing negative thinking
Learning focus Emphasising personal bests and encouraging the process of learning rather than the destination i.e., marks
Value of schooling Demonstrating the relevance of school content to world events, personal lives, and interests and highlighting the use of skills outside the classroom
Persistence Referencing times where the student as persisted, instances of past success, and incorporating goal-setting
Planning and task management Teaching planning and monitoring strategies such as considering what the task is, how to do it, formulating steps, creating a plan and monitoring progress
Anxiety Developing relaxation strategies, helping students better prepare for assessment and highlighting the present moment
Uncertain control Promoting a growth mindset, focusing on "controllables", giving students choice over lesson objectives or class activities, and providing regular feedback
Failure avoidance and self-sabotage Creating a classroom climate of cooperation, normalising mistakes, discouraging competition, and de-emphasising achievement-self-worth link
Disengagement Emphasising the "controllables", addressing skills impeding progress, and involving family if necessary

Self-regulated learning[edit | edit source]

Self-regulated learning is where learners actively take control and responsibility for their learning, through setting academic goals and monitoring, controlling, and regulating their cognition, motivation, and behaviour (Mohan & Verma, 2020). Self-regulated learning strategies are significantly related to academic resilience and achievement (Nota et al., 2004).

Seven educational strategies for classroom instruction and student-educator interactions are proposed, alongside the corresponding self-regulated learning aspect (Goetz et al., 2013):

  1. Help students set challenging realistic goals and standards [Goal setting]
  2. Have students observe and record their own behaviour [Monitoring]
  3. Teach student instructions they can give themselves to remind them of what they need to do [Planning]
  4. Encourage student to evaluate their own achievement [Evaluation]
  5. Teach student to reinforce themselves for correct behaviour [Motivation]
  6. Provide students with opportunities to practice learning with minimal help from teachers [Freedom]
  7. Provide strategies that students can use to solve interpersonal issues [Regulation]

Interventions[edit | edit source]

Classroom interventions which target active learning and student-educator relationships have proven to be efficacious. This is not surprising as the positive relationship between educational support and academic resilience is supported, suggesting resilient behaviour has a large human relationship component (Bester & Kuyper, 2020). The Project for Enhancing Effective Learning (PEEL) is a program centred around learning tendencies, behaviours, attitudes, conceptions, and reflections of students (Martin, 2002). The program is a driven by educators and aims to foster metacognition, active learning, and increase student responsibility and control over learning (Loughran et al., 2001). Within this program a number of activities target strategies for defining tasks, types of processing, approaches to learning, reflective thinking, and evaluation of outcomes (Martin, 2002). The structure and components of PEEL are consistent with the key factors and proposed applications within the conceptual model of motivation and engagement and closely aligns with self-regulated learning. Thus, PEEL may be an advantageous application of this model and learning style.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Academic resilience is the ability to positively adapt and succeed in academic endeavours despite significant adversities. While academic resilience can be influenced by a range of risk and protective factors, many students still manage to use setbacks as "springboards" for motivation and achieve success. This process can ensue a number of positive psychological and social benefits, namely increased self-efficacy, effective coping, and academic achievement. Academic resilience can be enhanced through promoting related factors, as demonstrated by the model of motivation and engagement, implementing self-regulated learning strategies, and fostering positive student-educator relationships via interventions. Through these methods students, teachers, and educational institutions can enhance students' foster and support academic resilience. Future research should endeavour to examine the actual behaviours of academically resilient students and build a comprehensive view of resilience in non-westernised cultures.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Beale, J. (2020). Academic Resilience and its Importance in Education after Covid-19. Eton Journal for Innovation and Research in Education, 4, 1-6.

Bester, G., & Kuyper, N. (2020). The influence of additional educational support on poverty-stricken adolescents’ resilience and academic performance. Africa Education Review, 17(3), 158-174.

Borman, G. D., & Overman, L. T. (2004). Academic resilience in mathematics among poor and minority students. The Elementary School Journal, 104(3), 177-195.

Cappella, E., & Weinstein, R. S. (2001). Turning around reading achievement: Predictors of high school students' academic resilience. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93(4), 758.

Cassidy, S. (2015). Resilience building in students: The role of academic self-efficacy. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1781.

Cassidy, S. (2016). The Academic Resilience Scale (ARS-30): A new multidimensional construct measure. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1787.

Cohen, J. (2013). Creating a positive school climate: A foundation for resilience. Handbook of Resilience in Children (pp. 411-423).

Coronado-Hijón, A. (2017). Academic resilience: a transcultural perspective. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 237, 594-598.

Foster, T. A. (2013). An exploration of academic resilience among rural students living in poverty (Doctoral dissertation, Piedmont College).

Goetz, T., Nett, U. E., & Hall, N. C. (2013). Self-regulated learning. Emotion, motivation, and self-regulation: A handbook for teachers, pp. 123-166.

Hamill, S. K. (2003). Resilience and self-efficacy: The importance of efficacy beliefs and coping mechanisms in resilient adolescents. Colgate University Journal of the Sciences, 35(1), 115-146.

Kwek, A., Bui, H. T., Rynne, J., & So, K. K. F. (2013). The impacts of self-esteem and resilience on academic performance: An investigation of domestic and international hospitality and tourism undergraduate students. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Education, 25(3), 110-122.

Loughran, J., Mitchell, I., Neale, R., & Toussaint, D. (2001). PEEL and the beginning teacher. The Australian Educational Researcher, 28(2), 29-52.

Luthar, S. S., Lyman, E. L., & Crossman, E. J. (2014). Resilience and positive psychology. Handbook of Developmental Psychopathology (pp. 125-140),

Martin, A. (2002). Motivation and academic resilience: Developing a model for student enhancement. Australian Journal of Education, 46(1), 34-49

Martin, A. J. (2014). Student Motivation and Engagement: Strategies for Parents and Educators.

Martin, A. J., & Marsh, H. W. (2006). Academic resilience and its psychological and educational correlates: A construct validity approach. Psychology in the Schools, 43(3), 267-281.

Martin, A. J., & Marsh, H. W. (2009). Academic resilience and academic buoyancy: Multidimensional and hierarchical conceptual framing of causes, correlates and cognate constructs. Oxford Review of Education, 35(3), 353-370.

McLafferty, M., Mallet, J., and McCauley, V. (2012). Coping at university: the role of resilience, emotional intelligence, age and gender. Journal of Quantitative Psychological Research, 1, 1–6.

Meneghel, I., Martínez, I. M., & Salanova, M. Promoting academic satisfaction and performance: Building academic resilience through coping strategies. Psychology in the Schools

Mohan, V., & Verma, M. (2020). Self-Regulated Learning Strategies In Relation To Academic Resilience. Voice of Research

Nota, L., Soresi, S., & Zimmerman, B. J. (2004). Self-regulation and academic achievement and resilience: A longitudinal study. International journal of educational research, 41(3), 198-215.

Novotný, J. S., & Kremenkova, L. (2016). The relationship between resilience and academic performance at youth placed at risk. Československá Psychologie, 60(6), 553.

Ortega-Maldonado, A., & Salanova, M. (2018). Psychological capital and performance among undergraduate students: the role of meaning-focused coping and satisfaction. Teaching in Higher Education, 23(3), 390-402.

Rodríguez-Fernández, A., Ramos-Díaz, E., & Axpe, I. (2018). The role of resilience and psychological well-being in school engagement and perceived academic performance: An exploratory model to improve academic achievement. Health and Academic Achievement, 10(1), 159-176. 10.5772/intechopen.73580

Rojas, L. F. (2015). Factors affecting academic resilience in middle school students: A case study. Education and Learning Research Journal, (11), 63-78.

Sadoughi, M. (2018). The relationship between academic self-efficacy, academic resilience, academic adjustment, and academic performance among medical students. Education Strategies in Medical Sciences, 11(2), 7-14.

Tamannaeifar, M., & Shahmirzaei, S. (2019). Prediction of academic resilience based on coping styles and personality traits. Practice in Clinical Psychology, 7(1), 1-10.

Toland, J., & Carrigan, D. (2011). Educational psychology and resilience: New concept, new opportunities. School Psychology International, 32(1), 95-106.

Wasonga, T., Christman, D. E., & Kilmer, L. (2003). Ethnicity, gender and age: Predicting resilience and academic achievement among urban high school students. American Secondary Education, 62-74.

External links[edit | edit source]