I The purpose of this book

Becoming Buoyant provides a blueprint for academic specific resilience. However, the techniques and strategies described are not exhaustive and other factors will also need to be considered. These might include the role of emotions, motivation and aspects of learning related to memory and attention. I've detailed these previously in The Emotional Learner and with Jonathan Firth in Psychology in the Classroom and have only briefly included them here to avoid repetition.

The emphasis is on both whole-school and individual interventions, although embedding buoyancy as a whole-school initiative is preferable to individual teachers going it alone. Nevertheless, all the strategies are fully transferable so pupils who encounter them in one lesson can apply them in others. Many of the strategies also apply to non-academic settings and it's hoped that both students and teachers will find them useful outside the school environment.

Often, resilience is associated with mental health and wellbeing and these factors are certainly relevant regarding the wider picture. However, Becoming Buoyant concerns itself with day-to-day coping in academic settings. While low levels of academic buoyancy are related to anxiety (although the direction of this relationship isn't fully understood), this is not a book about more acute forms of psychological distress. Some resilience interventions do attempt to improve these outcomes while others aim to raise academic achievement. Academic buoyancy doesn't directly confront these issues (although it may have an indirect effect). Becoming Buoyant, therefore, shouldn't be seen as a mental health or wellbeing resource.

The structure of the book

The knowledge we obtain helps to build dynamic patterns of behaviour and cognition. My approach has always been two-fold. First of all, Becoming Buoyant outlines theory and research. The vast majority is drawn from different psychological traditions with an emphasis on the most robust (cognitive and personality psychology). But it's not only about psychology. Physiology plays an important role in anxiety, stress and psychological arousal and it would be remiss of me to neglect this vital biological component. In addition, behavioural economics, a relatively young discipline, can provide answers to why people make complex decisions and why they are often reluctant to do so.

The second approach I label 'in action', or the ways we can apply the theory to real-world situations. This can be complex because we often discover that the results obtained under experimental conditions fail to arise when we test them in real settings, such as classrooms. An added problem (one that has recently undermined some psychological traditions) is that studies don't always replicate, generally referred to as the replication crisis. As researchers we need to know that our findings remain consistent when tested again and under different conditions. Successful replication builds stronger theories and models that can be relied upon. Unfortunately, in certain areas of psychology replication has been seen as unnecessary and this has led to many often classic findings being rejected years later, overturning models and theories that were once thought to be reliable. The techniques described here are deemed valid through several different routes, including replication and application to real-world settings.

How to use this book

The techniques applied in the 'in action' sections can be used without knowledge of the theory and research that underpins them. However, understanding the theory and research may increase the flexibility of the techniques, perhaps by adaptation, extension or application to different settings. Importantly, the techniques work in conjunction with each other and collectively represent those attributes that have been found to be present in individuals with high levels of academic buoyancy. This means that any intervention should involve all techniques drawn from the first 5Cs and underpin them at the community (6C) level, or the ethos of the school.

The book can, therefore, be used in two specific ways. First of all we can use it as a general introduction to several aspects of psychology. For example, Chapter 4 provides a brief overview of personality theory and a description of the most widely used model of personality (the Five-Factor Model, or Big 5). General views of personality are often gleaned from fun personality tests in magazines or on Facebook and few people are fully aware of the robust methods that go into designing tools and adapting theories that can give an insight into common traits. We also tend to use terms such as extravert and introvert in rather imprecise ways and rarely consider the deeper implications of personality types. In addition, Chapter 8 takes a closer look at emotional stability, a trait included within the Big 5 model. Emotional stability is also related to anxiety, so the biological, psychological and behavioural aspects of anxiety (and stress more generally) are discussed and models of anxiety introduced.

Chapters, in general, correspond to the first 5Cs of academic buoyancy but, because these factors often overlap, many aspects of the 5Cs are spread over several chapters. This means that by simply dipping in, some detail can be missed, however, summaries at the end of each chapter can help to guide those readers who prefer a less linear form of investigation.

Throughout the book I have attempted to confine some detail to boxes, particularly where studies and comparisons between methods is concerned. Time is a scarce resource for teachers and boxes, and tables (while not for everyone) allow the reader to obtain quick, precise information without having to scan large portions of text. For this same reason, I have included descriptive sub-headings to help guide the reader towards specific topics.

 
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