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Article

Helen St. Clair-Thompson and Sarah McGeown

Mental toughness encompasses a range of positive psychological resources which have been found to be beneficial across a wide range of contexts (e.g., education, sports, work). According to the most popular model used in education contexts, the attributes of challenge, commitment, control (emotion, life), and confidence (in abilities and interpersonal) have been found to be beneficial across a wide range of educational outcomes and experiences, including school attainment, attendance, classroom behavior, peer relationships, academic motivation and engagement, and the ease of educational transitions. However, conceptual debates of mental toughness (e.g., trait vs. state; domain specificity) are ongoing and pose important questions for the operationalization and measurement of mental toughness as it continues to be explored across different educational settings. Of particular importance is the debate about whether mental toughness is a state or a trait. Being a state indicates it could be developed given the right environment and support, suggesting value in working with pupils and teachers to develop interventions. Further research is therefore necessary to fully understand whether, how, and why we can utilize the development of mental toughness to optimize educational outcomes.

Article

Edgar J. González-Gaudiano and Ana Lucía Maldonado-González

Without having yet overcome the problems that gave rise to climate change, the field of environmental education faces new challenges because of the onslaughts of this phenomenon. Growing contingents of people in many parts of the world are periodically affected by extreme hydro-meteorological phenomena, such as severe droughts in Africa and increasingly intense cyclones that affect tropical coastal areas. These environmental threats can be aggravated by decades of investment in development programs at the global and local levels that end up affecting vulnerable populations the most. Its consequences have generated synergic processes of humanitarian emergencies of unprecedented magnitude, in the form of increasing waves of temporary or permanently displaced populations, because of disasters, water and food shortages, as well as armed conflicts and social violence that demand more resources to alleviate long-standing poverty and environmental degradation. This complex situation entails colossal challenges but also new opportunities to face processes of environmental education, which require a different strategic approach to trigger processes of social resilience when communities face adversities. This, in a stable, organized way and to allow societies to learn from them, encourages changes that the societies consider necessary to reduce their risks and vulnerabilities. Social resilience is not a state to be achieved, but a community process in continuous movement, in which various actors and social agents participate. Some of the community actions to be carried out during a social resilience capacity building process must be oriented toward mitigating physical and social vulnerability, adapting to the new conditions generated by climate change, and managing risks, among other actions that invite collective learning of lived experiences. For instance, a case study carried out with high school students in the municipalities of La Antigua, Cotaxtla, and Tlacotalpan in the state of Veracruz (Mexico) allowed researchers to better understand the social resilience construction processes. Initially, an attempt was made to analyze the social representation of climate change in communities vulnerable to floods resulting from extreme tropical storms. Subsequently, the way in which the students perceived their risks and their vulnerability was investigated, as well as the guidelines that govern the community behavior in the face of climate events with extreme values (magnitude, intensity, duration), which tended to exceed the capacities of communities to face them appropriately. Youngsters were chosen because they are a highly influential population in the promotion of social resilience, as they are often voluntarily and spontaneously involved in situations of community emergency. This has allowed an understanding of possible routes to undertake environmental education processes, aimed at strengthening capacities so that affected people can adapt to the changes and have strategies to reduce disaster risks in the face of specific critical events. Although the studies examined here are based on experiences in communities in the Mexican coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico, the authors of this article are convinced that their findings can be useful in developing equivalent programs in communities that are similarly vulnerable.

Article

Resilience is the ability to adapt and thrive despite facing adversity. There are various ontological approaches to conceptualizing resilience, including the pathological perspective, defining it in terms of protective factors, and exploring the impact of intervention in the manifestation of resilience. The pathological perspective defines resilience in terms of risk factors located at the individual level. A second area of research on resilience defines it in terms of protective factors that may contribute to its manifestation. The final area of research takes into account not only individual-level risk or protective factors, but also accounts for structural influence in an assessment of resilience. As an example of the interaction between individual and structural factors, Caleon and King proposed the concept of Subjective School Resilience. This perspective on resilience suggests it is a malleable construct and influenced by factors relating to both intra- and interpersonal processes.

Article

Kirstin Kerr and Alan Dyson

Countries across the world struggle to break the relationship between socio-economic disadvantage and educational outcomes. Even in otherwise affluent countries, children and young people from poor and marginalized families tend to do badly in education, and their lack of educational success makes it more likely that they will remain in poverty as adults. Moreover, socio-economic disadvantage and educational failure in these countries tend to be concentrated in particular places, such as the poor neighborhoods of large cities or of post-industrial towns. This has led policy-makers and practitioners in many administrations to favor area-based initiatives (ABIs), which target such places, as one set of responses to social and educational disadvantage. Some ABIs are limited to funding schools more generously in disadvantaged areas or giving them additional support and flexibilities. The more ambitious initiatives, however, seek to develop multistrand interventions to tackle both the educational and the social and economic problems of areas simultaneously. The evaluation evidence suggests that these initiatives have so far met with limited success at best. This has led some critics to conclude that there is a fundamental contradiction in their use of purely local interventions to tackle problems that originate outside ABIs’ target areas, in macro-level social and economic processes. However, it is possible to construct a convincing rationale for these initiatives by understanding the social ecologies that shape children’s outcomes, and by formulating holistic interventions aimed at reducing the risks in those ecologies and enhancing children’s resilience in the face of those risks. There is, moreover, evidence of a new generation of ABIs that has begun to emerge recently. These new ABIs are able to operate strategically and over the long-term, rather than being bound by the short-term nature of policy-making. These newer initiatives may offer a better prospect of tackling the link between social and educational disadvantage, even in unpromising economic circumstances, and even within the context of “politics as usual.”

Article

Dalun Zhang, Yi-Fan Li, and Melina Cavazos

Self-determination refers to a set of skills that helps individuals with disabilities control their life and achieve better inclusive outcomes. In special education, self-determination is often conceptualized as an educational outcome, which recognizes the important role that education plays in the development of student self-determination skills. Consequently, a number of educational practices have been developed to teach students with disabilities these essential skills. Some of the practices focus on helping students to acquire and maintain these skills; others focus on developing a conducive environment that allows and encourages individuals with disabilities to apply and exercise self-determination skills. Research has provided empirical evidence to support the need for teaching self-determination skills to students with disabilities. A number of evidence-based practices have been recommended for schools and parents to use in teaching these skills to students with disabilities. Some of the strategies focus on creating conducive environments that provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities to apply and exercise self-determination skills; others provide suggestions to families regarding what they can do to promote self-determination. A particular focus is on instructional practices because of the strong link between education and self-determination. Some popular instructional practices include teaching choice-making, self-management instruction, involving students in the transition planning process, and teaching self-determination skills through a self-determination curriculum such as the ChoiceMaker Curriculum, Steps to Self-Determination, Whose Future Is It Anyway?, Next S.T.E.P. Curriculum, Self-Advocacy Strategy, and Self-Determined Learning Model for Instruction (SDMLI).

Article

Ellen Skinner and Emily Saxton

Academic coping describes the profile of responses children and adolescents utilize when they encounter challenges, obstacles, setbacks, and failures in their scholastic work. Coping is one of multiple strands of research from a variety of subareas within educational and developmental science that share a common interest in this topic, including work on academic resilience, buoyancy, mastery versus helplessness, tenacity, perseverance, and productive persistence, as well as adaptive help seeking, self-regulated learning, and emotion regulation. These approaches focus on the responses (including emotions and goal-directed behaviors) students actually undertake on the ground when they encounter academic difficulties in their daily lives; patterns of action can be contrasted with the belief systems, motivations, or skill sets that underlie these responses. Since the mid 1980s, several dozen studies have examined academic coping in children and youth from 2nd to 12th grade (ages 7–18), including samples from 29 countries (Skinner & Saxton, 2019). These studies have identified multiple adaptive ways of dealing with academic stress, including problem solving, help seeking, and comfort seeking. These responses are considered productive because they allow students to gather resources and strategies, and so re-engage in demanding tasks with renewed purpose, vigor, and effectiveness. Multiple maladaptive ways of coping have also been identified, such as escape, rumination, or blaming others. These are considered unproductive because when enacted in response to academic demands, they are more likely to trigger disaffection, amplify distress, or provoke negative reactions from social partners. In general, research indicates that students normatively show a profile of coping that is high in adaptive strategies (especially problem solving, help seeking, and support seeking) and low in maladaptive responses. Studies find that students’ adaptive coping is linked to their academic functioning and success, including their educational performance, engagement, persistence, and adjustment to school transitions. In contrast, maladaptive coping is linked to a pattern of poor academic performance, disengagement, and school-related burnout. Students cope more adaptively when they possess motivational assets (such as self-efficacy, relative autonomy, or sense of belonging) and experience interpersonal supports from their parents, teachers, and peers. Studies documenting developmental trends suggest normative improvements in the coping repertoire during elementary school. However, over the transition to middle school in early adolescence, many adaptive ways of coping decline while reliance on maladaptive responses generally increases. Starting in middle adolescence, these problematic trends stabilize, and some studies indicate renewed improvement in coping, especially problem solving. Current research on academic coping faces theoretical, methodological, and applied challenges: (a) theoretically, more comprehensive conceptualizations are needed that integrate coping perspectives with social contextual, motivational, and developmental approaches; (b) methodologically, standard measures are needed that focus on core categories of academic coping, and that utilize allocation scoring; and (c) to further applied work, additional studies are needed that describe and explain normative and differential age-graded changes in adaptive and maladaptive coping across childhood and adolescence. Researchers who study academic coping believe that this work has much to offer educational theories, research, and interventions aimed at understanding how to help children and adolescents develop the capacity to deal constructively with the obstacles and problems they will inevitably encounter during their educational careers.