Building Student Resilience—A Research-Based Approach That Works.

It’ll come as no surprise that resilience is a highly valuable trait to have. A key pillar for living a happy, fulfilling life, individuals with high levels of resilience are often referred to with a sense of admiration as it’s a foundational trait for success in any area of our lives. It’s that remarkable ability that allows people to push past their circumstances, smile in the face of failure and “bounce back” from setbacks, stronger and more determined than ever before.

But while the thought of resilience might conjure up images of someone in your life who’s always able to maintain their calm in the face of adversity, it actually goes much deeper than that. Instead of just being able to stay calm and composed, resilience is a measure of your ability to recover and thrive after experiencing negative, stressful or anxiety-driven circumstances. It’s about your ability to adapt and mould yourself by learning and growing from these difficult experiences to push past them in pursuit of your goals and happiness.

However, while it’s often assumed that resilience is a trait that some people are lucky to be born with, it’s actually a learnable skill that we can all develop. As educators looking to set up your students with the best chances for success at living a happy and fulfilled life, helping them develop their levels of resilience sets them up with a trait that not only helps them excel in the classroom – but one that helps them succeed throughout the rest of their lives.

When Life Pushes Them Over—Resilience Helps Them Bounce Back Stronger

Defined as the capacity to successfully adapt or achieve positive outcomes despite challenging circumstances, resilience is the ability to “bounce back” after experiencing any adversity. It isn’t about actively avoiding or minimising the likelihood of having negative experiences. Instead, it’s about developing a set of mental frameworks, skills and perceptions that allow you to quickly recover from setbacks and learn from them to drive better results in the future.

When it comes to your students, the need to nurture their levels of resilience becomes even more important when you consider the fact that they’re going through a transitionary period of their lives, placing them directly in the path of a wide range of stressors and anxiety-drivers. From academic pressures and extra-curriculum responsibilities, to figuring out their own identities and finding their place in society, they’re constantly being placed in stressful circumstances without the experience that comes with age to help them successfully navigate through it all. Beyond that, in a world that’s now socially connected 24/7, virtual stressors are able to follow them back home with the rise of issues such as cyberbullying (Cross et al. 2009). For some students, adversity may already be waiting for them at home with unstable households or emotional neglect.

There’s even more cause for concern when you look at the prevalence of mental health disorders in children and young adults. Research has indicated that for Australian children aged 4 to 17 years old, over 17% of them struggle with at least one mental health disorder (Sawyer et al. 2000). For young adults aged 16 to 24 years old, this number jumps sharply with over 27% of them struggling with at least one mental health disorder (Slade et al. 2009). That means that over 1 in every 4 students within this age bracket are currently struggling with their mental health.

With countless drivers behind these issues from biological factors to environmental influences such as unstable home environments, abuse or a sheer lack of emotional support, it’s clear that the demand for effective resilience training for our student body is only becoming stronger.

The reality is that these issues and stressors will continue to affect them for the rest of their lives. However, given that they’re still at a developmental age, strategic student resilience training during these formative years can give them powerful tools that they could use to bounce back from difficulties when life inevitably gets them down. Beyond that, increased resilience has been directly related to a wide range of positive outcomes including improved academic results, higher school completion rates, reduced risk-taking behaviours and enhanced employability.

But with resilience being such an intangible concept, where do you even get started? Well, our team of world-class researchers at Sentis decided to shift their attention towards the brain.

It’s Not About Minimising Adversity—It’s About Shifting Their Attitude Towards It

You see, the difficulty in measuring and developing resilience is that resilience is based on an interplay between our unique individual attributes and the external factors in our environment. That means that an external factor that might be perceived as a setback or adversity for one student, may not have the same impact on another.

That’s why at Sentis, we shifted our focus towards the brain by analysing the latest research into the psychology behind resilience to develop an evidence-based approach for assessing and developing resilience that would work across an entire cohort of students. By infusing leading theories behind the individual-level factors that influence the development of resilience, we formulated our four-part student resilience model. The four core factors that formulate student resilience are:

1. Active Self-Management

This component of the model refers to your students’ ability to be self-sufficient and operate independently without relying on others. It’s based on a measure of their coping strategies, social competence and understanding of the factors that negatively impact their emotions.

2. Meaning

A measure of their sense of contribution and commitment to upholding personal values, the meaning component assesses how your students’ feel about their individual contributions. It evaluates if they feel like a valued, active member of society and is a key driver for internal motivation, especially in the face of adversity.

3. Mastery
An evaluation of their levels of self-confidence and independence, mastery is based on your students’ sense of autonomy and control. It’s based on an assessment of your students’ confidence in their ability to handle difficult circumstances and stay in control, even when challenges arise.

4. Positive Attitude
The final part of the model, positive attitude is about your students’ perceptions. It’s based on their ability to identify personal strengths and take positive action, even when faced with challenging circumstances. It involves having an optimistic outlook and maintain the belief that new skills can be developed and that hardships are also great positive learning experiences.

The methodology behind our student resilience model is based on the principles of The Theoretical Domains Framework, a theory-informed approach to identifying key determinants of behaviour (Cane et al. 2012). This framework is a culmination of 33 leading psychological theories that are relevant to behavioural change, grouped into 14 primary domains. Each aspect of our student resilience development model was developed in alignment with these 14 domains and the relevant theories within them to help us drive lasting behavioural changes.

With this research-driven model in hand, it gives us the ability to effectively analyse and benchmark your students’ current levels of resilience. Using strategically developed surveys, we review their responses to simple questions that are aligned with each of the four criteria in our model to better understand their current levels for each one. With this data in hand, we then develop tailored programs that target your students’ unique developmental needs, allowing us to drive impactful, lasting results with every engagement. Beyond that, it also allows us to effectively measure and assess the growth of your students’ resilience from start to finish.

Give Your Students An Edge For Their Future By Helping Them Develop Their Resilience

As you can see, resilience is a powerful trait that serves as a pillar for a happy and fulfilling life. That’s because regardless of how hard we may try to keep adversity away from our youth, the reality is that they’ll always run into difficult circumstances as they make their way through life. But being such an intangible trait, even with the best intentions in mind, it can be hard to help your students develop their resilience – then again measure if your efforts are paying off.

That’s why at Sentis, we’re here to help them thrive with our proven student resilience development model to help you measure, analyse and develop your students’ resilience. Through our curated learning resources and strategic educational initiatives, we’ll help your students develop the key factors that they need to thrive in the face of adversity and bounce back even stronger.

Not only will this increased resilience lead to improved health, academic and future employment outcomes, but it also gives your students an invaluable personality asset that they can use to live happier, more fulfilling lives. As an educator for the next generation of leaders, what more could you ask for?

To learn more about our unique resilience development program, or to get started on your journey towards a more resilient student body, just get in touch with us today at Sentis and let one of our experts show you exactly how you can set your students up for future success.

Remember—you can’t always shield your students from adversity. But you can give them the tools they need to thrive in the face of it.


Cane, J., O’Connor, D., Michie, S., (2012). Validation Of The Theoretical Domains Framework For Use In Behaviour Change and Implementation Research. Implement Sci, 2012.

Cahill, H., Beadle, S., Farrelly, A., Forster, R., & Smith, K. (2014). Building resilience in children and young people: A literature review for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD). Youth Research Centre, University of Melbourne.

Cross, D., Shaw, T., Hearn, L., Epstein, M., H., Lester, L., & Thomas, L. (2009). Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study (ACBPS). Perth: Child Heart Promotion Research Centre, Edith Cowan University.

Sawyer, M.G., Arney, F. M., Baghurst, P.A., Clark, J. J., Graetz, B. W., Kosky, R. J., Zubrik, S.R. (2000). The Mental Health Of Young People in Australia: Key Findings from the Child and Adolescent Component of the National Survey of Mental Health and Well-Being. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 35.

Slade, T., Johnston, A., Teesson, M., Whiteford, H., Burgess, P., & Pirkis, J.  (2009). The mental health of Australians 2: Report on the 2007 national survey of mental health and wellbeing. Canberra: Department of Health and Ageing.