Identify a niche

All traits are useful, but it often depends on the circumstances. While students should always be encouraged to experience life beyond their comfort zone, sometimes it's more useful for them to play to their strengths. For example, is it vital that the anxious introvert stands in front of the class to give a presentation? Sometimes we need to think about the utility of the task and if a particular student would benefit more from presenting their work in a different way, perhaps to a smaller group or even one-to-one with a teacher. On the other hand, the more extraverted student may very well enjoy the experience and benefit more from it.

Use goals and personal projects

Goals are covered in detail in Chapter 6. Goals encourage people to pursue something they see as important or meaningful and often require us to act out of character. Goals also encourage commitment and planning. Cambridge

University psychologist Brian Little uses the term personal projects to describe these goals and encourages the use of 'free traits' as a means of pursuing them (Little, 2008).

Encourage students to act out of character

Rather than playing to their strengths, teachers can also encourage students to behave in ways that run counter to their personality Goal setting encourages people to employ free traits. These are not really traits at all because they are used deliberately and strategically when the need arises. Introverts, for example, can feign extraversion when the goal requires it, such as giving a presentation, chairing a meeting or going to a party with their partner. The important thing about free traits is that they are temporary - they don't, for example, attempt to turn an extravert into an introvert.

Nurture curiosity

Curiosity is linked to trait openness and has been found to increase motivation and performance, as well as reducing fear of failure (Sansone & Thoman, 2005). Recent research has discovered that the key to curiosity appears to be discovering that what we thought we knew isn't accurate, suggesting that we can nurture it by interrogating current knowledge (Wade & Kidd, 2019).

Step outside the bubble

Exposure to different points of view and diverse cultures can have a positive impact on how people see the world. For example, Lauren Howard of the University of Chicago found that children who heard multiple languages in their neighbourhoods were more receptive to people who spoke languages other than their parents' language (Howard, Carrazza & Woodward, 2014). Experiencing the world as others see it can help to increase openness and curiosity by lifting us out of our immediate environmental bubble.

Main points

  • • Academic buoyancy is influenced by personality traits that are innate and remain relatively stable over time. This presents certain challenges if we intend to nurture academic specific resilience.
  • • Personality traits are directly applicable to some of the 5Cs, including commitment (trait conscientiousness) and composure (trait neuroticism/ emotional stability).
  • • Higher-trait conscientiousness is positively correlated with academic achievement but not creativity, while trait neuroticism/ emotional stability is negatively correlated with academic achievement.
  • • According to free trait theory, people are able to temporarily suspend their dominant fixed traits in order to pursue specific goals. This strategic use of traits doesn't change the long-term personality of the person but allows them to act out of character until the task is complete or the goal achieved.


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