How to Improve Academic Buoyancy

How to Improve Academic Buoyancy

Have you heard of the term ‘Academic Buoyancy’? Chances are you haven’t, but it may be one of the most
important psychological areas in education. Academic Buoyancy describes student’s ability to deal with typical school challenges. These include:

  • Getting bad grades
  • Challenging homework
  • Coursework deadline
  • Exam stress

Academic Buoyancy is subtly but importantly different from resilience. According to researchers in this field “the studies that deal with academic resilience tend to be focused on ethnic groups situated in adverse conditions and situations and chronic underachievers. Other research touches on the issue of resilience in the academic setting for students with learning disabilities….we propose that traditional resilience concept does not address the many individuals who are faced with setbacks, challenges and pressures that are part of the ordinary course of life”. 

The 5 C’s of Academic Buoyancy
Researchers from the University of Sydney and the University of Oxford have investigated how to help students develop their Academic Buoyancy. They refer to their model as the 5 Cs; Composure, Confidence, Co-ordination, Commitment and Control. If we can help students develop these areas, it will help them manage the everyday challenges that they face at school.

 Composure – This refers to helping students manage anxiety. There is no one set way to do this. We recommend creating an environment that reduces the fear of failure (the most common ones include the fear of shame and embarrassment and the fear of an uncertain future), as well as teaching them skills to handle exam and revision pressure. These blogs here and here give some ideas on how to do this.

The 5 Cs to develop academic buoyancyConfidence
– In the research, this is referred to as ‘self-efficacy’, which is akin to situation specific confidence. Strategies to improve this include addressing negative beliefs that students have about themselves and effective goal setting. You can read our tips on how to do this here.

 Co-ordination – Key to students being able to co-ordinate their work-load is to not fall foul of ‘The Planning Fallacy’. The planning fallacy describes the tendency that people to be poor predictors of how long future tasks will take, often underestimating it. This is often linked to procrastination. Tips to overcome this include starting early, don’t do the hard task last and to effectively manage your revision environment to minimise distractions.

 Commitment – This refers to helping students persist at tasks for longer. A lot of the current research in this area often relates to ‘grit’, which is the combination of passion and persistence. It is interesting to note, that at the time of writing there aren’t any studies that detail strategies on how to develop grit (or indeed how significant this is in relation to exam results).

So for now, the best advice is to help students develop their self-talk (something known to effect persistence) and to access social support available (a factor that has been shown to link to resilience).

 Control – Help students create a sense of ownership. Strategies that should aid this include giving regular, helpful and constructive feedback as well as helping them focus on individual development and improvement, instead of comparing themselves to others. This self-referenced focus is more stable, durable and as a result is much more within one’s own control.

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