Resilience as academic buoyancy

While accepting the similarities between different factors within the learning process, it is also useful to highlight differences between types of resilience (differences that will be discussed in Chapter 2). On the one hand, we have resilience in respect to extreme adversity, while on the other, we have resilience that is academic centred and involves day-to-day setbacks, general hassles and cognitive limitations. This latter type of resilience has been termed academic buoyancy by Australian educational psychologist Andrew Martin and provides a distinction that allows interventions to become highly focussed upon skills building, rather than on building general resilience (Martin, 2013). While attempts to build general resilience are somewhat problematic, especially if there is no agreed definition or means by which resilience can be measured, academic buoyancy allows for the identification of certain factors that have been found to contribute to a greater capacity to cope with and reflect on setbacks. These factors (identified by Martin and subsequent researchers working within educational psychology) have become known as the 5Cs (confidence, coordination, control, composure and commitment). Becoming Buoyant, however, adds a sixth C to the mix that recognises the role of wider aspects within the environment in the form of community.

The academic buoyancy model, therefore, has a number of advantages over more generalised models of resilience. First of all it is specific to academic performance. This means that teachers can be confident that the interventions that arise from it are directly applicable to their students. Second, the breaking down of the model into five distinct components allows for more targeted approaches. Confidence, for example, equates to self- efficacy - one's faith in the ability to complete a given task. Coordination, on the other hand, is about planning, goal setting and time management, while control is related to the way people attribute the causes of success and failure; composure is the ability to remain calm and regulate emotional responses, and commitment the ability to keep going even when things are challenging (we may also refer to this as conscientiousness or grit).

Buoyancy and wellbeing

Because of its emphasis on academic achievement, the buoyancy model doesn't approach the issues related to mental health and wellbeing specifically. Often resilience interventions have attempted a dual purpose, that of raising academic achievement and improving student wellbeing (or they have presumed that raising wellbeing will automatically result in improved educational outcomes). Academic buoyancy does not purport to tackle this latter issue, despite 5C composure being related to anxiety and emotional stability. This is not to say that improving academic buoyancy won't indirectly impact wellbeing through related techniques and strategies. For example, anxiety has been found to negatively impact test scores and while the aim of academic buoyancy would be to tackle anxiety to improve academic outcomes, these aims could also improve general wellbeing by helping students to better cope with anxiety. In addition, explicitly teaching techniques related to time management and goal setting reduces worry and limits procrastination, itself linked to lower levels of wellbeing and a greater susceptibility to depression (Sirois & Pychyl, 2016, p. 6).

Similarly, changes to instructional design (how new information is taught), can lead to better retention of learned information, higher academic confidence (because learning becomes less problematic) and, consequently, less worry and feelings of anxiety. This means that while anxiety coping techniques can be taught (non-cognitive), anxiety can also be reduced through an understanding of how memory systems best retain information (cognitive). Students, therefore, become less anxious because they aren't being presented with information in such a way that makes them feel overwhelmed or unable to cope with competing instructions and multiple sensory inputs.

An emphasis on evidence

One of the major strengths of the academic buoyancy model is that it incorporates aspects of psychology and related disciplines that already have a strong evidence base. Some of these areas have been part of the research literature for several decades, such as personality (Chapter 4), self-efficacy and self-concept (Chapter 11). Others are more recent additions from disciplines allied to psychology. Goal setting (Chapter 6), for example, draws much of its support from behavioural economics, an area that (unsurprisingly) combines elements of behavioural and cognitive psychology with economics. At the heart of behavioural economics is behaviour change and the way behaviour can be nudged in particular directions. Behavioural economists often work on projects related to health or financial behaviours, such as nudging people towards a healthier lifestyle or encouraging them to save more for their retirement. The same principles can be utilised to nurture adaptive learning habits and to jettison unhelpful ones (Chapter 5). Personality (Chapter 4) is often associated with another relatively recent discipline known as behavioural genetics - the investigation of the heritability of certain human dispositions. These dispositions include traits such as conscientiousness and emotional stability.

There is also a respectful nod towards a specific movement in psychology often referred to as positive psychology. Positive psychologists investigate those elements of the human condition that lead to flourishing and increase wellbeing. It has been called happiness studies, but this term underplays the central tenets of the movement. The notion of positive psychological capital underscores both human flourishing and academic buoyancy. Those individuals who are able to build stores of hope, self-efficacy, optimism and resilience are better equipped to deal with life's challenges (Luthans, Luthans & Luthans, 2004).

Support for academic buoyancy, therefore, originates from some of the most robust and reliable research studies that have been conducted over the past 50 years or more. Drawing on such a vast repertoire of research means that studies aren't confined to the same methodology but, rather, include laboratory, longitudinal and comparative studies (amongst others) as well as both qualitative and quantitative data.

 
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