Can Resilience be Built at School?

Last year a Community of Learning/Kāhui Ako (nine schools, about 2000 children) asked ERO for assistance in creating and analysing an online survey on resilience. The Kāhui Ako had noticed that some children were coming into their schools with low achievement that could not be traced to cognitive issues – they just seemed to give up too easily.

The Kāhui Ako wanted to investigate whether schools could influence children’s resilience, and how much resilience influenced academic achievement.

ERO identified and developed testing for four important components of resilience: belonging, growth mindset, self-efficacy, and “grit” across 2000 learners.

In educational psychology, grit is defined as “perseverance and passion for long term goals” and is a key indicator of future prosperity and wellbeing.

Not surprisingly, ERO’s analysis found there was a clear link between resilience and doing well at school. And in keeping with the international research, children who rated themselves highly for grit in particular did better academically.

We also found that boys, Māori and older students rated themselves weaker for grit than girls, non-Māori students and younger students.

However a subset of boys, Maori and older students who rated highly on the other resilience factors also rated themselves highly for grit.  This indicates that one road to building grit at school – a strong indicator of academic success – is to build a sense of belonging, a growth mindset, and self efficacy.

In practical terms, schools can help children succeed by giving them a variety of learning strategies to apply if they are having difficulty (so they can try again), creating an environment where asking for help is a positive trait and experience, praising and admiring perseverance and grit, teaching the concept of “failing up” (our failures give us the information we need to succeed), and supporting high expectations.

A presentation of this work given to Oranga Tamariki is available on You Tube.

For those seeking further information, Teaching Adolescents to Become Learners, from the University of Chicago, is a useful resource.