Academic buoyancy: If you have it, you’re more likely to succeed

iStock_000017916360XSmallAcademic buoyancy is an important but overlooked factor in why students, and not always the ones you would predict, fare well in school, says a new study in the British Journal of Educational Psychology.

Many educators are familiar with the concept of “resilience,”  a student’s ability to overcome major hardships and threats to well-being and academic success.

Academic buoyancy is different.  It is a student’s capacity to overcome the more ordinary, everyday setbacks and challenges such as meeting competing deadlines, completing difficult tasks or taking a stressful test, according to researcher Andrew Martin.

In this study of 3,374 junior high and high school Australian students, those who rated higher on an  academic buoyancy scale had better academic outcomes and engagement, the study reports.  This was true not only for the general student population but also for students with ADHD (87 students had ADHD). All students  attended the same junior high and high school. 


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“It is concluded that there is merit in widely promoting and fostering academic buoyancy among ADHD and non-ADHD students alike—and that academic buoyancy explains variance in outcomes beyond major intrapersonal factors such as personality, socioeconomic status, ethnicity and the like,” the research writes.

Academic buoyancy was assessed using the Academic Buoyancy Scale comprising 4 items (“I’m good at dealing with setbacks at school—e.g., negative feedback on my work, poor result”; “I don’t let study stress get on top of me”; “I think I’m good at dealing with schoolwork pressures”; “I don’t let a bad mark affect my confidence”).

The researcher also analyzed results of 3 engagement measures (behavioral, affective and cognitive) and  students’ academic achievement on the Australian standardized test (National Assessment Program in Literacy and Numeracy).  Students completed the 40-item International Big-Five Mini-Markers instrument to measure 5 personality factors—extraversion, openness to experience, neuroticism, conscientiousness and agreeableness.  Taken into account as part of the analysis were the following sociodemographic variables: Gender, age, language background, SES, parent education and parent occupation.

“Prior research has identified anxiety to be one of the strongest predictors of academic buoyancy, with students high in academic buoyancy low in anxiety,” the researcher writes.  “It may be that students with ADHD who are academically buoyant are capable of regulating negative affect and arousal (i.e., anxiety) and that this leads to greater engagement relative to students who are poor self-regulators of affect and arousal.”

 “Academic buoyancy and academic outcomes: Towards a further understanding of students with attention/deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), students without ADHD, and academic buoyancy itself,” by Andrew J. Martin, British Journal of Educational Psychology, March 2014, Volume 84, Issue 1, pp. 86-107.

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