Developing Academic Resilience

[by Roger Loxley]

At our recent twilight training session we discussed aspects of academic resilience and how we develop that in all our students (who are, by and large, highly able). This recent SecEd article also focuses on the theme of resilience, with practical ideas for teachers.

In those discussions we tried to identify what a resilient student looks like in our own subject and then what we do, as teachers of our subject, to develop four key areas: problem solving, communication, independence and self-motivation.

hands up

I’ve tried to summarise, in bullet-point form, some of the most common ideas that came out of those discussions in an attempt to provide examples of good practice (a top ten, if you like, but it’s not in rank order of importance!).

Hopefully there’s something in the lists below that you don’t do already that you can try. Certainly, I think the lists provide a great example of how good we are at what we do and also how diverse our practices are in developing these skills.  But it also shows that there is a lot of common ground here and these lists apply equally to all subject areas.

I hope you find them of some interest.

Resilience looks like:

  • Keen to rise to challenges
  • Keen to participate in optional activities
  • Willingness to take research beyond a set task
  • Unafraid to voice independent ideas or express uncertainty
  • Willingness to find pleasure in wrestling with and teasing out meaning
  • Willing to try hard and unafraid to get it wrong
  • Reflective approach to studying
  • Self-regulating and self-motivated


Developing problem solving skills

  • Setting investigative projects and assignments – design, plan, prepare
  • Developing ability to plan a response to a problem – scaffolding model answers
  • Redrafting responses in the light of feedback
  • Specific reference to skills – BLP words, for example
  • Writing own problems for others to solve
  • Understanding that there may be more than one solution to a problem
  • Hard practice of solving problems
  • Setting a variety of linked tasks
  • Encouraging asking open-ended questions
  • Making connections with other learning to broaden the toolkit
  • Brain, Book, Buddy steps to finding solutions


Developing communication skills

  • Presenting research findings formally (including Dragon’s Den-type feedback)
  • Targeted feedback on written work
  • Student-led discussion in groups
  • Using debates
  • Students teaching each other and feeding back
  • Encouraging students to tell the teacher when they are wrong
  • Providing open tasks that allow students to choose means of communication
  • Group performance and self-evaluation
  • Using models of explanation (describe-explain-opine-justify-evaluate)
  • Use of social media


Developing students’ independence

  • Setting project work
  • Use of open-ended tasks
  • Students presenting findings of a non-set work
  • Choice-based homeworks
  • Study-buddy groups independent from the classroom
  • Ownership of/responsibility for a blog, society, magazine etc
  • Marking of own work/peer marking and assessment with feedback
  • Setting extension work which students are in charge of
  • Starting from nothing – not being afraid of the blank sheet
  • Providing thinking time


Developing students’ self-motivation

  • Use of praise and encouragement
  • Specific, positive, constructive written feedback on effort
  • Give students hope – “you can do it” (the power of yet)
  • Making it very real-world relevant and using current examples
  • Visits, trips, talks to develop interest and passion
  • Relating the teacher’s personal experience to the content
  • Making learning fun (competitive, engaging, challenging activities)
  • Positive classroom environment full of interesting ideas
  • Teachers as great role models with passion and enthusiasm
  • Setting creative and imaginative tasks




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