Leading Student Resilience: Insights from Sarah Hall’s Research

Leading Student Resilience: Insights from Sarah Hall’s Research cover image

Welcome to our blog on student resilience, inspired by the insightful Q&A webinar with Sarah Hall. Sarah, a children’s wellbeing practitioner who completed the Leadership of School Mental Health Masters with a dissertation focused on resilience, shared her research and findings on this crucial topic. Below, we’ll explore key takeaways from her study and the practical implications for educators and schools.

Sarah Hall’s Journey and Research Focus

Sarah Hall completed her Master’s degree in November 2023 after navigating the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and personal milestones, including becoming a mother. Her dissertation titled “Developing the Resilience of Children in Key Stage Two: Can Resilience Be Taught?” delves into the intricacies of building resilience in children, particularly during Key Stage Two.

Understanding Resilience

Definitions and Theories

Sarah’s research underscores the varied definitions of resilience. For instance, some define it as the ability to cope when things go wrong, while others describe it as a process involving mental, emotional, and behavioural adaptability in the face of adversity. The American Psychological Association’s definition, which emphasises resilience as both a process and outcome of adapting to challenges, was particularly influential in Sarah’s study.

The British Context

Interestingly, Sarah found a lack of UK-specific definitions of resilience, leading her to rely on the American Psychological Association’s comprehensive definition. This highlights the need for a more unified understanding of resilience within the UK educational context.

Resilience-Based Programmes in Schools

Effectiveness and Implementation

Sarah critically analysed several resilience-based programmes, identifying key factors that influence their effectiveness:

  1. Facilitator Expertise: The background and experience of facilitators, whether in-house staff or external experts, play a significant role in the programme’s success.
  2. Targeted Group vs. Universal Approach: The choice between a universal approach, involving all students, and targeted interventions for specific groups impacts inclusivity and bias.
  3. School’s Knowledge and Experience: Schools with a well-established understanding of mental health and resilience tend to implement programmes more effectively.
  4. Material Accessibility: Ensuring that programme materials are comprehensible and accessible to all students is crucial.
  5. Assessment Methods: Reliable assessment methods, including long-term follow-ups, are essential to gauge the programme’s impact.

Key Programmes Reviewed

Some of the programmes Sarah reviewed include:

  • Emotion Regulation and Behavioural Activation
  • Bounce Forward
  • Restorative Practices
  • Building Resilience for Healthy Kids Programme
  • Resilience Builder Programme

Strengthening Protective Factors in Schools

Role of Schools

While schools cannot eliminate all risk factors, they can significantly strengthen protective factors to enhance resilience. Building positive adult relationships, developing emotional regulation, and fostering self-esteem are critical components.

Holistic Approaches

Sarah highlighted the “Resilience Wheel,” a holistic approach that incorporates living a healthy lifestyle, maintaining positive relationships, and having healthy coping strategies. This method, aligned with the resilience framework, emphasises the importance of a sense of belonging and cultural identity.

Key Findings and Implications

Can Resilience Be Taught?

Sarah’s research suggests that while resilience itself may not be directly teachable, the skills that underpin resilience can be developed. Programmes that focus on emotional regulation, self-esteem, and confidence can enhance a child’s ability to be resilient.

Measuring Resilience

Measuring resilience remains challenging. Instead of directly assessing resilience, focusing on associated skills such as emotional regulation and confidence provides a more reliable indication of a child’s resilience.

The Role of Adversity

The question of whether resilience can be developed in the absence of adversity remains open. More research is needed to explore resilience in children from varied backgrounds, including those who have not faced significant adversity.

Conclusion

Sarah Hall’s research offers valuable insights into the development of resilience in children. By understanding the complexities of resilience and implementing effective, evidence-based programmes, schools can play a pivotal role in fostering resilient students. As we continue to explore this field, it is crucial to consider diverse student experiences and adapt our approaches to meet their unique needs.

Ready to learn more about resilience and take your teaching career to the next level?

At Minds Ahead, our School Mental Health Specialist students will look at the theme of resilience in module 3 – Supporting Children and Young People with Mental Health Needs. For more information, download a brochure of the programme here.

Discover Minds Ahead's initiatives to support mental health in schools

References

  1. Leading Student Resilience 17605 Q&A webinar delivered last 5th March 2024.
  2. Resilience guide for parents and teachers