Promoting Resilience in the Classroom

Why did you decide to undertake this project? What was it designed to achieve?

Resilience is an ever increasingly important quality in a pupil as it leads to higher confidence, achievements and prepares individuals for life beyond education. Waxman et al believe that this area of research has important implications for improving the education of students, especially those who are at risk of academic failure. Further study of those who succeed in school despite the presence of adverse conditions have highlighted that it was the skill of resilience which has aided them above all other characteristics especially when comparing them to others from the same socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds who were not as successful. This research could be useful in helping educators design more effective educational interventions that take into account alterable factors that distinguish resilient students from non-resilient students. J. A. Downey believes that a number of strategies must be put in place in order to achieve the promotion of resilience in the classroom such as teacher-student rapport, classroom climate, instructional strategies and student skills which we have tried to implement in this study here at SJB.

What impact has your project had on learning and teaching or outcomes in the school?

I decided to focus on resilience based activities and how that affected their confidence, achievements and their attitudes towards learning. This was done over a range of subjects and a range of year groups using a variety of teacher techniques which will be discussed later where they had to problem solve and achieve through a series of failures.

After each activity every pupil was given an anonymous simple questionnaire to fill out as shown in figure 1.

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 10.20.57

Figure 1

This allowed us to collate a generic set of results in order to see trends over different curricula and age groups. From this we were able to see if there was any correlation between how resilient the pupils felt on that task and if that had an impact on their understanding. Figure 2 shows a slight positive trend which indicates that there is a relationship so as their level of resilience increased so did their understanding.

Picture1Figure 2

To look at this in further detail I chose two year 10 classes with similar abilities and two year 8 classes with similar abilities. One class from each year group were given resilience based activities in order to reach their objectives and the other class were used as a control group who were fed answers in order to reach the class objectives. After a few lessons each group was given a quiz to test their level of retention. As seen in Figure 3 below the year 8 class who used resilience based activities achieved on average a higher score than the year 8 control group in all three tests. Figure 4 shows a similar trend where the resilience year 10 group outperformed the year 10 control group in three out of the four tests given. This leads us to believe that if pupils reach the answer by themselves making mistakes along the way and learning from these mistakes they are more likely to retain the information.

Picture2Figure 3

Picture3Figure 4

What we also noticed was a fairly surprising trend which illustrated that girls enjoyed resilience based tasks much more in Key Stage 3 then there was a major shift when it came to Key Stage 4 where they no longer enjoyed it (see figure 5)


Figure 5

What was just as surprising is that the trend was the exact reverse when it came to boys who didn’t enjoy resilience based activities as much in Key Stage 3 as they did in Key Stage 4 (see figure 6)

Picture5Figure 6

With further questioning the KS3 students came up with these explanations for the trend in Key stage 3.

Girls reasons they enjoy Resilience activities Boys reasons why they don’t enjoy Resilience activities
  • It gives us an opportunity to be trusted by teachers so we feel more grown up.
  • It’s a lot more effort to work it out ourselves- we would rather be told.
  • It makes me remember the information more.
  • The girls really enjoy it so it’s difficult to get involved
  • I enjoy it much more when I’ve worked it out myself
  • I find it difficult to stay concentrated so my mind wanders off the task.


These were some reasons KS4 pupils gave for the Key Stage 4 trend.

Girls reasons they don’t enjoy Resilience activities Boys reasons they enjoy Resilience activities
  • We take our GCSEs seriously and we just want to know what we need for the exam
  • It really brings out the competitive side of me and I want to be the first one to get to the right answer.
  • Although I remember more this way- I get really worried that I will remember the wrong answers as well as the correct answers
  • It was something I never used to enjoy because I don’t think I had the maturity for this task a few years ago.


From the information gathered it was clear that pupils were able to gain a lot from resilience activities so strategies to implement these in day to day life have been looked at in a way to make them more understandable, accessible and to engage the Key stage 4 girls and Key stage 3 boys. We were able to break them down into four different categories

1. Promoting Problem solving

No question lessons/question token lessons– these are lessons where the pupils are not allowed to ask the teacher any questions and everything must be worked out between themselves. Another option is to hand out question tokens (figure 7) and if they want to ask a question they must hand in a token of which they have limited amounts. This takes the reliance off the teacher and forces the pupils to rely on themselves learning from their mistakes.

Picture6Figure 7

Question only lessons- these are lessons where the teacher will never answer any questions but will only ask questions of the class. This should push the students out of their comfort zone and to think deeper about an answer.

Reward questions- these are lessons where questions are celebrated and rewarded, this promotes the students to think about their questions in order for them to be rewarded highly, this is also an excellent opportunity for differentiation.

L2 was a great opportunity to try out some problem solving activities which made the pupils assess and then reassess a problem in order to reach a solution (See figure 8-10 for some examples used).

Picture7Figure 8

Picture8Figure 9

Picture9Figure 10

2. Lesson activities that encourage resilience

These activities are designed to be excessively difficult to push pupils out of their comfort zone, they are forced to fail and then start over again. Clues of different varieties are spread around the room in order to give them helpful hints if they need them however most pupils didn’t take the clues as they wanted to achieve the answer themselves.

Figure 11 shows an example of a task done with a year 10 class. Figure 12 shows the clues they were able to access.

Picture10Figure 11

Picture11aPicture11Figure 12

Another strategy was to give them everything they needed to answer a question and the only way to get to the answer was with trial an error, Figure 13 is an example of a task I did with the year 8 class.

Picture12Picture12aFigure 13

3. Fostering resilience outside of the classroom

We felt that it was just as important to set activities to promote their resilience outside of the classroom as well as inside as this is a skill they should be able to associate throughout their lives and not just in an academic setting. Media were particularly good at this aspect where they set a series of projects to be undertaken in their leisure time which were difficult and allowed them to make mistakes which they would need to learn from in an environment where there were no teachers as a safety net.

4. Promoting resilient attitudes to learning

One of the things we found when researching resilience is how pupil’s attitude towards failure was perceived and it was obvious that strategies throughout the school needed to be implemented to change this. Geography and Learning support are effective at this by simply acknowledging those pupils who have not given up and persevered through difficulties by rewarding them ‘student of the month’ or ‘geographer of the month’ as seen in figure 14.

Picture13Figure 14

English were able to capture the effect of this constant recognition of resilience and their rewards by measuring confidence levels at the beginning of a prolonged task and the confidence levels at the very end with a series of intervals where they were acknowledged for their achievements and their perseverance. Figure 15 shows that not only did their confidence increase dramatically but so did their levels. Figure 16 shows some examples of their work and what they had used to assess their work as they were going.

Picture14Figure 15


Picture15Figure 16

A series of subjects leave subliminal messages around the school in order to encourage a change in perception of failure which ultimately leads to the promotion of resilience as shown below in figure 17.

Picture18Picture17Figure 17

What do you think are the next steps in order to develop this aspect of learning and teaching in the school?

In order to continue to develop this area of learning and teaching in schools, I think classroom teachers need to start to explore or continue to explore new ways in which students can be trained to be resilient and change their attitudes and focus on engaging the Key stage 3 boys and Key stage 4 girls. It is clear how great an impact this can have on their learning and will ultimately lead to the students becoming more independent learners; a hugely valuable skill as they approach work or higher education in increasingly competitive environments.

Something to take away

To summarise the information gathered in this study to help implement resilience in a school setting see some reminders below.Picture19


Review of Research on Educational Resilience. Research Report. Waxman, Hersch C.; Gray, Jon P.; Padron, Yolanda N. Center for Research on Education, Diversity and Excellence, Santa Cruz, CA.

Recommendations for Fostering Educational Resilience in the Classroom. J. A. Downey. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth. Volume 53, Issue 1, 2008



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *