Literature Review

25 September 2017

Author: Louise Wareing – Innovation Fellow

Literature Review on Resilience 


Introduction and Local Context

I began this project with the intention of researching one of the most pressing problems for Blackpool schools: the resilience of its pupils. Blackpool is one of the most deprived areas in the country according to 2015 government statistics; the 2015 Indices of Multiple Deprivation revealed Blackpool was ranked the 4th most deprived area out of 326 districts and unitary authorities in England, when measured by the rank of average rank. (Lancashire County Council, 2017) One of the reasons why resilience is a significant issue in Blackpool is because of the proven link between deprivation and mental health problems. ‘Poverty increases the risk of mental health problems and can be both a causal factor and a consequence of mental ill health’ (Elliott, 2016).

The government has pledged to improve the mental health of the nation (Future in Mind, 2015) and Lancashire County Council has responded by producing a transformation plan to promote, protect and improve children’s and young people’s mental health and wellbeing  (The Transformation Plan 2015-2020). A major part of this plan is a pilot study in Blackpool, run by Headstart, into building the resilience of Blackpool pupils.

This literature review charts the current research into how to instil greater resilience in our students, and addresses some of the key aspects of promoting resilient children, including whether this is even necessary at all.

What is resilience?

Resilience is becoming a popular term to describe the character and coping skills of pupils. Other terms sometimes used are bounce-backability, grit, perseverance, mental toughness. Research has claimed that ‘Up to 25% of the variation in a young person’s performance in exams can be explained by mental toughness’ (Clough and Strycharczk, 2014). However, other educationalists have been scathing of such claims and state that there is no such evidence. A report for the Department of Education in 2011 evaluating the UK Resilience Programme concluded that the study had met with limited success after one year and even less so two years later. (cited in Didau and Rose, 2016)

The main difficulty in settling this debate is how to measure resilience – do we look at improved academic performance at school or at the adult 30 years later? ‘Educator David Hochheiser wisely reminds us that developing growth mindset or resilience to adversity is a paradigm for children’s life success rather than a pedagogical tool to improve grades or short-term goals. Simply put, it’s a way of helping children believe in themselves—often the greatest gift teachers give to their students’ (cited by Price-Mitchell, 2015). In support of this view, I love the story of a headteacher who asked the parent of a former pupil what his opinion of the school was. The parent replied it was a little early to tell. The pupil was 32! (Extract from Schools for Human Flourishing SSAT,2016)

I would argue that we should be wary of any measure of the perceived ‘resilience’ of an individual, and a better definition would be ‘Resilience is an emergent property of a hierarchically organized set of protective systems that cumulatively buffer the effects of adversity and can therefore rarely, if ever, be regarded as an intrinsic property of individuals.’ (Roisman, Padrón et al. 2002: 1216, cited by Headstart 2016). Resilience is an adaptive outcome in the face of a particular adversity, therefore it can be different in different circumstances: at home or at school; on the sports field or in the exam hall; with friends or without.

Consequently we must beware falling into the trap of seeing resilience as a character trait which can be measured. ‘The use of the term ‘resilient children’ is to be avoided because it implies a within-child attribute and thinking of resilience in this way carries the implication that there are children who are ‘non-resilient’. This is tantamount to blaming the victims of adverse circumstances for their difficulties, for not having enough of the right personal qualities’ (Schoon, 2006 cited in Headstart 2016). The staff of St. Mary’s made this point after completing the MTQ48 questionnaire, when those scoring less than average were disconcerted at being labelled ‘mentally sensitive’, since they were obviously successful professional adults. Educational psychologists warn of the danger of ‘Character Education’ which ‘may inadvertently exacerbate feelings of emotional vulnerability and lead to a diminished self’( Ecclestone cited in Didau and Rose, 2016) and critics see it as a way of forcing students to cope with whatever adversity life throws as them. (‘Is teaching “resilience” just accepting that the world will inevitably be heartless?’ – Devon, 2017) Instead, my research has focused on the development of a resilience programme which equips children with the skills and help they need to manage life when it is tough, rather than the development of resilience or ‘mental toughness’ per se. All agree that focusing on ‘a stimulating, enriched, challenging curriculum and extra-curricular activities’ (Ecclestone, 2015) helps students to develop the character and resilience we would like them to have.

Growth Mindset

My research began unwittingly several years ago when I first started to encounter ‘growth mindset’. I was in the middle of my MA dissertation on the advantages of Flipped Learning and became a little side-tracked by the endless positive possibilities I discovered in growth mindset literature (Dweck, 2007, Syed, 2011, Epstein, 2014). I had always believed in the transformational power of hard work and I found the 10,000 hours of practice rule (Ericsson, 1993) to be very helpful in explaining success to students and my own children. There is an unresolved debate about the role of talent over practice (Gladwell, 2009, Syed, 2011, Epstein, 2014) but I am convinced that deliberate and purposeful practice leads to hugely improved outcomes whatever the arena.

The harder part for me to assimilate was the idea that failure is not the end but a necessary part of the learning journey. As a guilt-ridden Catholic, I recall a prayer I faithfully repeated for many years genuinely asking forgiveness for ‘things I had failed to do’ (Confiteor), and I can certainly remember giving up there and then on my dream of being a journalist, aged 13, when I received a poor mark for a newspaper article I had written in an English lesson! Viewing failure as essential to future success and not a signal to give up is, I believe, the most important part of growth mindset, and an absolutely crucial lesson to teach our students.

Fear of Failure

From this starting point, and further reading (Duckworth, 2016, Lahey, 2016) I came to the conclusion that fear of failure is what holds many people back from reaching their potential. Yes, people may not want to put in the hard work necessary to succeed, but add in the extra fear factor that their hard work may not actually result in the outcome they desire, and this is why many people do not bother to start or try. Unlocking that fear should release our students to perform so much better. And that is the key to resilience – understanding that failure or problems will happen, and it is how we react to them and move on that matters. We must equip our students with the knowledge, skills and confidence to move on from failure, ‘it’s going to be the kid who has tried and failed and regrouped in order to try again with twenty-five other plans who will create true innovation and change in the world’ (Lahey, 2106)

As a parent, ‘The Gift of Failure’ (Lahey, 2016) was quite a revelation to me. I no longer worry about being seen as the perfect parent, happy to create future adults rather than dependants. When my 9 year old son did not have his swimming kit for school and had to sit on the side and watch, my reaction was ‘Why did you forget?’ not ‘What must school think of me!’ Pupils must learn the consequences of their actions and small failures in a safe environment in order to help them grow into responsible adults. Overparenting (or spoonfeeding) can prevent this.

Importance of a Vision

Almost every book I read highlighted the importance of having a vision or purpose in life; something to work towards (Clarkson, 2015, Duckworth, 2016, Peters, 2012, Bowman, 2016). The power of imagining this vision and setting goals to achieve it has helped me to emerge from my wonderful, yet career reversing, early family years and look towards embracing my career again. Students often struggle with a long-term vision but shorter term ones such as success in exams can be just as powerful. Those who do have a career in mind can be particularly focused. Visualisation of a dream can be a very helpful tool in the classroom, although my experience of talking to students about their passions and hobbies is that many struggle with this. Discovering or triggering a passion is definitely something we need to do with our students. Once they are clear about their vision, they can set their short and long term goals to achieve it.

The Confucian Mindset

I had never encountered the ‘Confucian Mindset’ until reading ‘Cleverlands’ (Crehan, 2016). This book examined the main features of 5 of the best PISA scoring countries. Since three of these countries are in East Asia (Singapore, Shanghai and Japan), Crehan focuses on their unshakeable belief in the power of hard work. In countless ways, East Asian students demonstrate this belief, studying for 18 hours every day, attending after-school classes until 10pm at night, persisting at impossible tasks, putting into practice the words of the Chinese proverb ‘A clumsy bird that flies first will get to the forest earlier’.

This contrasts with the western mindset, where students are more likely to have a fixed mindset; a belief that people achieve success because they are lucky or because they have more talent. In the west, intelligence is more likely to be seen as something there is a fixed amount of. With a fixed mindset, having to put effort into a task can be an indication that the student is not naturally smart. Teachers can also fall into this trap, labelling students as ‘hard workers’ rather than ‘naturally gifted’, with more admiration for the ‘gifted’ student.  IQ tests have reinforced the view that intelligence is fixed, although they were created by a developmental psychologist, Binet, in the early 1900s for a very different purpose. Binet stated at the time ‘With practice, training and above all method, we manage to increase our attention, our memory, our judgement and literally to become more intelligent than we were before’ (cited by Crehan, 2016.) Many authors have written about the importance of not being distracted by talent and of fostering a growth mindset. (Coyle, 2009, Syed, 2011, Duckworth, 2016) Duckworth has produced a neat equation proving that effort counts twice: ‘Effort  x Practice = Skill; Skill x Effort = Achievement’. (Duckworth, 2016).  Academics have argued that it is the belief in effort which accounts for the achievement gap between those of American and Asian descent (cited by Crehan, 2016). If we can move our students even slightly closer to the Confucian mindset we may see some educational gains.

What can psychology teach us?

Since so much of a resilient and growth mindset depends on the way a student thinks, the final part of my research moved into educational psychology, an area about which I knew very little. (Peters, 2012, Lahey, 2016, Didau and Rose, 2016). I discovered much about how to teach effectively, which I will write about in another literature review. In terms of resilience, the limitations of developing brains, particularly executive functioning such as working memory, self-regulation, organisation and mental flexibility are all hugely important to understand. Adolescent brains are still developing and the expectations which teachers have of their students, whilst appropriate, may not always be possible for them to carry out effectively. It is our job to help them. (Lahey, 2016 and Peters, 2012)

Developing a programme

I looked at various examples of programmes for teaching resilience to children and read evaluations of schools based approaches (Hart and Heaver 2015). I particularly liked the Resilience Framework (2012, adapted from Hart and Blincow with Thomas 2007) which covered the five categories of resilience: basics, belonging, learning, coping and core self. This programme included examples of classroom activities for each section. However, I intend to develop my own bespoke programme for St. Mary’s using feedback from the students themselves. To begin this process, I designed a questionnaire using the 5 categories of resilience, which was completed by all Humanities Tutor Groups.  Some interesting findings came out of this survey (see appendices). I used the findings from my own tutor group to design a mini PSHE resilience programme. Evaluations of this from my tutor group, as well as continued input from my research, will help to further develop a whole school resilience programme going forward.


Towards the end of my reading journey, I discovered ‘The A Level Mindset’ (Oakes and Griffin 2016) and felt all my research coming together. This book summarises all the key points of resilience as well as suggesting 40 top tips for sixth form study. The main 3 sources cited in the book were Clough et al (2002), Dweck (2007) and Duckworth (2012).  The book highlighted the importance of ‘study behaviours’, a ‘growth mindset’ and ‘perseverance’, all traits which were repeated time and again in my reading. The model this book recommends for success and one I liked more than any other is ‘VESPA: Vision, Effort, Systems, Practice and Attitude’.  I intend to use this as the model for all my resilience training with students.

Overall, I have learnt a huge amount through my research process and I now feel somewhat saturated in the ideas of resilience. I truly believe that equipping students with skills to develop resilience can make a difference.  ‘Whole school approaches to social and emotional learning, universally implemented for all pupils, strongly correlate with higher attainment’ (Banerjee et al, 2013), countering the resistance to specific character education which I encountered (Didau and Rose, 2016). If we are able to build systems in school to help pupils become more resilient then we must, particularly in Blackpool where the link between deprivation and mental health problems is so high. My next task is to develop those systems!


Louise Wareing – Innovation Fellow – Resilience Project 2016-2018

Bibliography (Resilience)


  • Boardman, C. (2016), Triumphs and Turbulence (Ebury Press)
  • Birbalsingh, K. (2016) Battle Hymn of the Tiger Teachers: The Michaela Way (Woodbridge, John Catt Educational Ltd)
  • Bowman, B. (2016) The Golden Rules, (Piatkus)
  • Campbell, A. (2016) Winners (Pegasus)
  • Christodoulou, D. (2014) Seven Myths of Education (London, Routledge)
  • Christodoulou, D. (2016) Making Good Progress? (Oxford: Oxford University Press)
  • Clarkson, S. (2015) DayDreaming, (Preston: Think Works)
  • Claxton, G. (1998) Hare Brain Tortoise Mind: Why Intelligence Increases when you think less (Fourth Estate)
  • Clough, P. & and Strycharczyk, D. (2014) Developing Mental Toughness in Young People (London: Karnac Books)
  • Coyle, D. (2009), The Talent Code: Greatness isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How (New York: Bantam)
  • Crehan, L. (2016) Cleverlands, (London: Unbound)
  • Didau, D. & Rose, N. (2016) ‘What every teacher needs to know about Psychology’(Woodbridge: John Catt Educational Ltd)
  • Duckworth, A. (2016) Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (New York, Vermilion)
  • Duggan, L. & Solomons, M. (2015) Building Resilience – The 7 Steps to Creating Highly Successful Lives (Developing Potential Ltd)
  • Dweck, C. (2007) Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (New York, Ballantine Books)
  • Dweck, C. (2000) Self-theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development (Psychology Press)
  • Ennis, J. (2013) Unbelievable – From My Childhood Dreams To Winning Olympic Gold (Hodder)
  • Epstein, D.(2014), The Sports Gene: Talent, Practice and the Truth about Success (New York, Yellow Jersey)
  • Foot, T. (2007) Surviving your workload! Essential Study Habits for Sixth Formers (Tim Foot Publications)
  • Froome, C. (2015), The Climb (London, Penguin)
  • Gladwell, M. (2009), Outliers: The Story of Success (New York, Penguin)
  • Heyne, A. (2015) Master the Day: Eat, Move and Live Better With The Power of Daily Habits (Alexander Heyne)
  • Hymer, B. & Gershon, M. (2014), Growth Mindset Pocketbook (Teachers’ Pocketbooks)
  • Kahneman, D. (2012) Thinking, Fast and Slow (New York, Penguin)
  • Lahey, J. (2015) The Gift of Failure (New York: HarperCollins)
  • Maxwell, J. (2012) Failing Forwards: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing)
  • Namka, L. (2014) Teaching resilience to children (Arizona: Talk, Trust and Feel Therapeutics)
  • Oakes, S. & Griffin, M. (2016) The A Level Mindset (Carmarthen, Wales: Crown House Publishing)
  • Peters, S. (2012) The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Programme for Confidence, Success and Happiness (London: Random House)
  • Syed, M. (2011), Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice (London, Fourth Estate)
  • Syed, M. (2016), Black Box Thinking (London, John Murray)
  • Whitmore, J. (2009) Coaching for Performance, GROWing Human Potential and Purpose: The Principles and Practice of Coaching and Leadership (London: Nicholas Brealey)
  • Wiggins, B. (2014) My Time (Yellow Jersey)
  • Wiking, M. (2016) The Little Book of Hygge, The Danish way to live well, (Penguin Life)


  • Banerjee, Weare and Farr (2013) Working with Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (British Educational Research Journal)
  • Carter, B. (2014) Can 10,000 hours of practice make you an expert? (BBC News Magazine, accessed 10/4/17)
  • Devon, N. (2017) Is teaching “resilience” just accepting that the world will inevitably be heartless? (Guardian online, accessed 6/2/17)
  • DFE, (2015) Futures in Mind (
  • Elliott, I. (2016) Poverty and Mental Health: A review to inform the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Anti-Poverty Strategy (London: Mental Health Foundation).
  • Ericsson, A (1993) The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance (Psychological Review, 1993, Vol. 100. No. 3, 363-406)
  • Hart, A. and Heaver, B. (2015) Resilience Approaches to Supporting Young People’s Mental Health: Appraising the Evidence Base for Schools and Communities (Brighton, University of Brighton/Boingboing)
  • Hart, A. and Williams, L (2015) Academic Resilience Approach (
  • Headstart Blackpool (2016) Whole School Resilience Conversation and Action Plan
  • Lahey, J. (2013) Why parents need to let their children fail(, accessed 14/11/16)
  • Lancashire County Council (2015) Lancashire Children & Young People’s Mental Health, Emotional Wellbeing and Resilience Transformation Plan 2015-2020 (
  • Lloyd-Rose, M. (2016) While You Were Teaching: How to build students’ confidence, independence and resilience within your day to day practice.(
  • Price-Mitchell, M. (2015) Resilience: The Capacity to Rebuild and Grow from Adversity (TESonline, accessed 2/12/16)
  • Public Health England (2014) The link between pupil health and wellbeing and attainment
  • SSAT – Schools for Human Flourishing (2016) What should our schools be? (Church of England)
  • Walters, S. (2015) Growth Mindsets, a Literature Review(Temescal Associates)
  • Wilby, P. (2014) Britain’s brightest student taking aim at teaching’s sacred cows (Guardian online, accessed 6/2/17)


Other sources of information

  • PSHE Association
  • Penn Resilience Programme
  • Healthy Minds in Schools Programme
  • The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues – University of Birmingham
  • Cuddy, A. (2012).Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are (video) TED .com
  • Duckworth, A. (2013). The Key to Success? Grit (video)


  • Visit to LRGS to discuss their ‘Values Programme’ with James Hallsworth, Assistant Headteacher
  • Chimp Management Training – Tim Buckle (former GB Cyclist) and Laura Fishenden
  • Research training with CUREE and Right to Succeed
  • MTQ48 Coaching training with AQR
  • Discussions with SEC/teachers/counsellors/parents/anyone who will listen!!


Appendix 1                         Resilient Tutor Group Questionnaire

For all of these questions, rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the statement.

                                                                                                                  Strongly Agree                   Strongly Disagree


I feel safe and comfortable in my own home.

5              4              3              2              1

I feel safe and comfortable at school.

5              4              3              2              1

My journey to and from school is not stressful.

5              4              3              2              1

I eat a healthy and balanced diet.

5              4              3              2              1

I get plenty of exercise and fresh air.

5              4              3              2              1

I get at least 8-9 hours of sleep every night.

5              4              3              2              1

I do at least two hours of extra-curricular activity every week.

5              4              3              2              1

I never experience prejudice or discrimination.

5              4              3              2              1



I feel like I belong to St. Mary’s Catholic Academy.

5              4              3              2              1

I feel like I belong to my tutor group.

5              4              3              2              1

I feel like I have plenty of positive relationships.

5              4              3              2              1

I am good at making new friends.

5              4              3              2              1

I have people who can help me through tough times.

5              4              3              2              1

I like helping others.

5              4              3              2              1

I like to remember good times I have experienced.

5              4              3              2              1

I know my family’s background and history.

5              4              3              2              1

I like to take on a challenge.

5              4              3              2              1



Strongly Agree                     Strongly Disagree


I know how to do well at school.

5              4              3              2              1

I have an idea of the type of person I want to be after school.

5              4              3              2              1

I am good at organising myself.

5              4              3              2              1

I am proud of my achievements.

5              4              3              2              1

I am good at developing new skills.

5              4              3              2              1



I understand why rules and boundaries are necessary.

5              4              3              2              1

I am brave.

5              4              3              2              1

I am good at solving problems.

5              4              3              2              1

I can learn from problems.

5              4              3              2              1

I am good at following my interests.

5              4              3              2              1

I am not afraid to show my emotions.

5              4              3              2              1

I know how to calm myself down.

5              4              3              2              1

I know that tomorrow I can start again.

5              4              3              2              1

I have people I can rely on to make me feel better.

5              4              3              2              1

I am able to laugh and have fun.

5              4              3              2              1


Core Self

I want to make the world a better place.

5              4              3              2              1

I understand other people’s feelings.

5              4              3              2              1

I am proud of who I am.

5              4              3              2              1

I have control of my own life.

5              4              3              2              1

I am good at developing my own talents.

5              4              3              2              1

I know that there is help available for difficult issues.

5              4              3              2              1


Appendix 2

Overall Humanities Report

(Resilience Questionnaires -166 responses)


In general, the area which all years need to work on is the Basics. Healthy diet, sufficient sleep, and engaging in regular extra-curricular activity are common to almost all years. Years 7-8 suffer more from perceived discrimination than older years and Years 10-11 are notably deficient in fresh air and exercise!

The other big category which crops up for all years is Coping. Years 8 and up struggle to show their emotions, and different groups find it difficult to calm themselves down, do not always appreciate that tomorrow they can start again, and find problem solving difficult.

A significant amount (4 out of 9 tutor groups) list organisation as something they find difficult.


The better scoring categories are more spread out so it is harder to identify patterns, but in general the Belonging category contained quite a lot of high scoring answers.

Other questions which yielded high scores from at least four tutor groups were:

  • I feel safe and comfortable in my own home (8)
  • I like helping others (4)
  • I like to remember good times I have experienced (8)
  • I understand why rules and boundaries are necessary (5)
  • I am able to laugh and have fun (6)


You can use your individual TG reports to inform you of where the strengths and weaknesses of your form lie. It is will hopefully help you when planning form time or PSHE.

Many of the weaknesses might not need much work e.g. telling them it is ok to show emotions, that every day is a new start and working on organisational skills.

Sorting out the basics might be more difficult since most of these occur at home, but at least you can make them more aware of the importance of good diet, sleep, exercise etc.

Thank you for your support – any feedback gratefully accepted!


Blog Post Author LOW

Posted on 25 September 2017
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